The Separation of Church and State in American Politics: What is God to a Non-Believer?

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America is a grand democracy. It is a country where all people over the age of eighteen have the right to vote, where all people have the right to choose the course of the country the live in. It is a secular state with no national religion, where the citizens are legally free to practice whichever faith they see right for themselves. The extent to which the Church is separate from the politics and from the governing of the state is a simple question with a simple answer; that is they should be separate, as is written in the constitution, but the citizens of America demand it to be otherwise.

There has never been a President who was not Christian. It is a more improbable thing for there to be an African American President than a white man who practises a different religion. The repeated attempts to undermine Obama during his 2008 presidency candidacy with rumours of him being Muslim demonstrate this. There are rumours of Obama practicing Islam in secret, and is believed by a few that his middle name is Mohammed[1]. The religion of the candidate is of key importance to the voting of American citizens. Politicians openly use their faith in God to gain votes, which is an intelligent decision as “65 per cent of Americans say that religion is important in their daily lives”[2]; to be atheist would be to alienate the majority of voters.

It is not only America that suffer from the shadow of Christianity; the calendar of the Western world is organised around the birth of Jesus Christ; therefore the calendar of the trading world is organised around this too. Schools get Christmas off, children who celebrate Eid or Ramadan must take time off school to take part in the festivities of their faith.  Schools, before the holiday period, become decorated in seasonal paraphernalia traditional to the celebration of the birth of the Christian God’s son. But, as you may have experience in your youth, the carols and Christmas pageants in British primary schools can be ordered so as to remove any mention of God. However in America the name of God is written the Pledge of Allegiance, recited in all schools. The constitution of the United States of America sates in its first amendment that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”[3] The government shall make no law that prohibits the exercise of religion and yet they create a schedule around in which faiths that are not Christianity do not fit. But these are problems that face all people of the world who practise a faith with a civilisation that exists with the Judeo-Christian calendar.

It is not the placement of holidays that shows the blurred boundaries between Church and State in America, but it is the practice of Christian ceremony, that the President of the United States and the members of the White House take a part in that marks America’s secular state apart from those of others around the world. The White House has a Christmas holiday, just like in schools, and  it is decorated with Christmas trees and Yule tide decorations, the building, itself, from within which America is governed cannot escape Christianity. There is an Easter Holiday celebration on the grounds of the White House in the form of the annual “Easter Egg Hunt”[4]; Christmas and Easter are celebrations of Christianity. Religion, or rather, Christianity and politics in America are intrinsically linked; they are completely inseparable. This can only serve to distance America from the outside world. The world is at a pivotal point where secularism may be about to become the leading power. The figure of China is an ever increasing force on the World’s stage and since the ruling Communist Party is “a party that advocates atheism”[5].  Could the fact that America and its Christianity are so intrinsically linked lead to them being unable to keep a hold of their place as the super power? America’s national slogan is after all “In God We Trust”, could it be that we begin to witness their power slipping away as they put trust in God in an ever growing Godless world?

 

Written by Lucinda Weston



[1] David Emery, Is Barack Obama a Muslim: Urban Legends http://urbanlegends.about.com/library/bl_barack_obama_muslim.htm

[2] Nigel Barber Why Religion Rules American Politics: Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nigel-barber/why-religion-rules-americ_b_1690433.html

[5] Mr. Ye Xiaowen: China’s Religion Retrospect and Prospect http://www.china.org.cn/english/features/45466.htm