Religion and politicsan unholy alliance

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The First Amendment of our great nation now seems but a lost idea in 21st century politics. In an age of political correctness, one barrier that America has never been able to break is that of religion. Religion is very evident in politics and American culture, especially now in an election year. A recent local example of this would be just a few weeks ago with the Iowa caucuses: CNN exit polls showed that Mike Huckabee’s big win can be attributed to the evangelical right-wing Christian voters. Huckabee’s website has his slogan as “Faith. Family. Freedom.” and the ordained Baptist preacher certainly drove all three points home on his campaign in Iowa. Even more upsetting than a candidate winning in a secular nation based solely his on religious beliefs is the flak that other candidates receive about their religion. Mitt Romney found it necessary to announce and give a much-hyped nationally televised speech on his Mormonism. Romney did not do this to tout his Mormonism and point out his differences, but he did it in defense. The New York Sun published an article that quoted one man saying “I’m one person who will not vote for a Mormon.” On the Democratic side, Iowa champion Barack Obama has taken criticism for having a Muslim name and Muslim roots before converting to Christianity. Some of the criticism Obama has taken has just been the anti-Islamic rhetoric that is evident even locally. Recently, a Giuliani representative said at Ames High that he liked how Giuliani specified that it was “Islamic” terrorism. But much criticism of Obama’s religion is more extreme. Some people accuse Obama of going to school at an Islamic extremist school while he lived in Indonesia. The Seattle Times reported last month that Obama staffers say it is not uncommon to come across voters who refuse to support Obama on the basis that there are rumors that he is a Muslim. After Obama defended himself from Fox News’ smear report of his background a year ago, the issue seemed to dwindle. In fact it had merely moved underground. Thousands of people have started receiving untraceable emails that read “The Muslims have said they plan on destroying the U.S. from the inside out; what better way to start than at the highest level?” History has many examples of religious intolerance, but that does not make it acceptable. The First Amendment to our Constitution states that there will be no law influencing religion. It is fruitless for me to create an argument why religion should be ousted from politics. Religion is a large part of many people’s lives, therefore it makes sense for them to bring religion into politics, to a certain, limited extent. But it has gone too far. The deep religious sentiment that has been placed into politics not only is discriminatory towards millions and ultimately against the Constitution, but it takes away from the integrity of politics in general. Important issues are ignored in place of candidates’ religious beliefs. Obama takes criticism for having an Islamic background, but he takes little criticism for comments about bombing Pakistan and not refusing the option of bombing Iran. Romney takes criticism for his Mormon beliefs but takes less criticism on his comments about how corporate drug companies are important to the economy; so what if they do evil things to the American people like overcharging those who can barely afford to keep themselves alive. Romney also takes little criticism for completely disregarding science on his beliefs about climate change, an issue that many Republicans are however acknowledging. Huckabee gets strong support from the religious right, even though as governor he did many things that many Christians would disagree with. Huckabee had made statements about quarantining AIDS patients. It is also interesting that he has drawn so much support from devout Christians when one of the Ten Commandments is “Thou shall not murder” and Huckabee supports endless war and the death penalty. Our government tells us that we are in a war to fight Islamic extremism, but with American politics, it must be questioned if America has simply become a beacon of Christian extremism. The architect of this extremism is Karl Rove. Rove has exploited Evangelical Christians to help the Republican Party by shifting the Republican party to not only include classical fiscal conservatives but also social conservatives. What makes this newly formed “extremism” manipulative and troubling is that Rove has said that he does not have a lot of faith. Many people say he is an agnostic. While his dream of a forever Republican U.S. Government obviously didn’t take shape, his influence in our political system is still extremely evident. Is the only difference between Islamic extremists and many Americans that Americans are better off and do not have a foreign country bombing their homes? It is time for politics to focus on real issues. We live in a secular nation where any person should not be defined by their faith, but by their inner character.