Wednesday, June 28, 2006

On Religious Involvement in Politics

Kimberly Winston, a reporter for ReligionLink, sent me an e-mail asking:

Do you think there is growing criticism over political involvement within the conservative religious movement ? Why or why not? If there is a growing critical voice, what is it in response to? Most importantly, if these voices are heeded, what might it spell for the 2008 presidential election (do the Republicans or the Democrats stand to lose or gain religious voters?)? What might happen to religious conservatism and the evangelical movement if these voices are not heeded?

Here's my response:

No one should be opposed to devoutly religious people being involved in politics. The constitution guarantees that people of all faiths and people of no faith will be eligible to serve in public office (Article VI).

A strict interpretation of the First Amendment to the Constitution also prohibits people of any faith from using the power of the state to force others to conform to their beliefs and practices.

There is a growing criticism of the political involvement of religious conservatives because they refuse to uphold the First Amendment. In a variety of ways, they are exercising political influence to employ the power of the state to force others to observe the peculiar beliefs and practices of their form of religion. The push for state sponsored prayers in public schools is a good example of this.

Before the Constitution was written, the power of the state was often used to force the religious beliefs and practices of those in power upon unwilling subjects. This often led to conflict between the adherents of different faiths that escalated to violence. The primary intention of the First Amendment was to reduce such conflict.

If religious conservatives succeed in repealing the First Amendment, sooner or later, they will find that their faith becomes discredited by association with scores of the failed policies of their political bedfellows that had nothing to do with their religion.

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