Politics free from religion just as important as religious freedom


Olivia Trone photographed by Isabella Kneeshaw.

Olivia Trone, Copy Editor/Bilingual Editor

Historically, religious people have been political activists seeking to reform the way America thinks about certain controversial topics. The separation of church and state is a philosophical and political concept that attempts to distinguish where the line between society and religion should be drawn. However, the issue with the fluidity of the term is that it leaves too much up for interpretation to the individual. When this happens, especially in political situations, it causes division that affects the quality of governance. 

Historically, the United States has practiced secularism when it comes to conducting affairs, especially ones that relate to business. Liberalism and secularism often overlap, while religious practices and conservatism overlap as well. The minimization of religion in the public sphere is something that many people in this country support, despite the arguments in favor of non-secular practices on the basis of constitutional religious freedom, such as the freedom to pray in school. In addition to the separation of church and state, religion — and the absence of it — plays an important role in culture. Morality and ethics are both things that can be learned with or without religion. The idea of secular morality and secular ethics forces people to choose what is right and wrong without the influence of religion. Secular ethics tend to result in good being defined as what contributes to justice and the equal success of humanity, rather than an abstract concept of good based on religion. 

There are several political arguments that raise moral concerns on both sides. For example, as the debate over abortion has increased with the overturning of Roe vs. Wade, religious — and generally right-wing — people have expressed concerns for the life of the baby in question. They argue that protecting the life of the unborn child is more important than prioritizing the physical rights of the birth-giver. More liberal people are typically pro-choice and believe the person giving birth should have the right to choose whether or not they have an abortion. They argue that the government has no right to issue a mandate against abortion under any circumstance. In terms of COVID-19 vaccine mandates, conservatives argue the opposite, saying “my body, my choice,” while they still think birth-givers should be forced to birth a child. Getting a safe vaccine is not comparable to forcing birth. In contrast, lots of religions preach agency, but is agency only important when it supports their own values? 

One of the main questions this issue raises is: should religion be involved in politics? Religion affects morality and culture on a very deep level for people who let it, in which case the separation of the two would be very difficult. In a dream world for secularists, the two would be completely mutually exclusive. But asking a religious person to remove religion when politics enters the conversation is nearly impossible. The way to completely separate them on a surface level is to give the state complete power and religious associations none at all. Considering that most religious positions are volunteer ones, it would not be unreasonable to give them no clear power in governance. However, the state must be equally neutral with non-religious groups and religious groups to achieve full separation and impartiality. This situation sounds impossible because it is; there is virtually no way to completely separate religion and politics because both affect each other so much. Although this is true, there is still a philosophical argument for separating the ideals of politics and religion, unless the two become obsolete. “One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all” is a statement that cannot be achieved while the line between religion and politics remains undefined.

The moral debate on how to distinguish between religion and politics is something that causes both good and bad consequences. The debate will never end, and as it continues, people carry on with their lives and develop their own beliefs. This country was founded on religious freedom, therefore the freedom to practice it should remain in place. But the freedom to remove it from politics is equally as important, and the debate will never end if political morality and religious morality continue to contradict one another.