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Politics and religion in the U.S


Those who say religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion is. - Mahatma Ghandi


General overview on the political & religious structure

· Operated by a two-party structure most of the time: the Democrats and the Republicans

· Democrats: liberal, center-left-wing

· Republicans: conservatism, center-right-wing

· About 78% of US citizens see themselves as Christians (mostly Catholics and Protestant), about 16 % are non-affiliated and about 4 % are other religions such as Buddhism, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish etc. (2008 – American Religious Identification Survey by Barry Kosmin & Ariela Keysar)

· The separation of the church and the state by Thomas Jefferson is mentioned in the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States

Although in 2010, about 67% of Americans said that religion is losing more and more influence it’s still closely connected to current issues such as the Conservatives being against abortion and same-sex marriage


Important political figures of the U.S

· George Washington: 1st president of the U.S; established the cabinet system in America; seen as ‘Father of his country’; called out for and strongly supported religious liberty and tolerance;

· Thomas Jefferson: 3rd president of the U.S; author of the Declaration of Independence 1776; against the European system of established churches; called for a ‘wall of separation between church and state’; hostilities towards the Catholic Church and anticlerical (against religious institutional power & influence; involvement of religion in everyday life)– however great interest in theology, bible study and morality

· Abraham Lincoln: 16th president of the U.S; first person to end slavery in the U.S; not affiliated to any church – yet familiar with the bible; assassinated after his speech for the voting rights of black people by Booth

· Jimmy Carter: 39th president of the U.S; evangelical and Sunday school teacher; against death penalty – instead life imprisonment; received the Peace Nobel price in 2002

  • Barack Obama: 44th and current president of the U.S; member of the Trinity United Church of Christ (black liberation church); lots of doubts about his religious affiliation rose and people accused him to be Muslim


Bioethics :

· Developments in science – especially biomedical research has been causing lots of issues e.g. human cloning and embryonic stem-cell research

· Embryonic stem cells à special cells of young embryos can be used to cure specific chronic diseases because they are ‘pluripotent’ (can develop into all 220 cell types of the human body) where the embryo is destroyed afterwards;

· However religious leaders oppose to the process for its immorality of taking away life; here the Democrats have been favoring legal funding for the stem-cell research while the Republicans have mostly been against it;

· The destruction of human embryos to harvest stem cells is "not only devoid of the light of God but is also devoid of humanity" and "does not truly serve humanity." – Pope Benedict 16th


Death penalty:

· Religious leaders have been questioning death penalty for its fairness of the criminal justice system as well as the possibilities of reform and rehabilitation of death row inmates

· July 2005 poll by the Pew Forum & Pew Research Center: 68% of Americans SUPPORT death penalty

· Death penalty for minors was abolished in March 2005

· Opponents’ arguments: government does not have the right to take human life; unfairness because mostly used on minority and lower-income felons; does not deter violent crime; government cannot always prove the guilt; in 1997, DNA testing has proven half of death row inmates to be innocent

· "In the US the overwhelming majority of those executed are psychotic, alcoholic, drug addicted or mentally unstable. They frequently are raised in an impoverished and abusive environment. Seldom are people with money or prestige convicted of capital offenses, even more seldom are they executed."
-George Ryan, former Illinois Governor



Same-sex marriage:

· The federal government does not legally recognizes; however individual states such as: New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire

· 1996: former president Bill Clinton signed the Defense Marriage Act which denied the federal government to legalize same-sex marriage

· Current president Barack Obama said that he supports the idea of legalizing same-sex marriages although his personal beliefs don’t do so

· Contra quote: “God's design for sexual intimacy places it within the context of marriage between one man and one woman“; “homosexuality is incompatible with Biblical teaching” – American Baptist Church 2006

· Pro quote: “Our nation’s permanent mission is to form a ‘more perfect union’ – deepening the meaning of freedom, broadening the reach of opportunity, strengthening the bonds of community. That mission has inspired and empowered us to extend rights to people previously denied them. Every time we have done that, it has strengthened our nation. Now we should do it again, in New York, with marriage equality. For more than a century, our Statue of Liberty has welcomed all kinds of people from all over the world yearning to be free. In the 21st century, I believe New York’s welcome must include marriage equality.” – Bill Clinton 2011



Conclusion:

· Even though it was officially stated and declared that the state and the church should be separated in the early 19th century still today there are lots of conflicts between political and religious issues

· Many U.S presidents and other politicians have been strongly influenced by their religious values

· Science -> great achievements and advanced developments for human life but still clashes with the traditional religious (Christian) views

· Death penalty -> supposed to serve as means to conduct justice causing the question of the government not being allowed to take away lives

  • Same-sex marriage ->

on-going debates about biblical aspects that strictly go against same-sex marriage

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