The First Amendment of the Constitution describes that citizens have rights to their own freedom of expression and their own religion. This most likely stems from the fact that original settlers of the United States were trying to escape religious persecution and wanted the right to be able to express their thoughts and practice their own religion. There are religious ideologies and sayings embedded all throughout our society, and it serves as a foundation of the beliefs of the government and the decisions that our government makes. “In God, We Trust” is on the back of our currency, we say God’s name in the Pledge of Allegiance, we recognize Christian holidays, and many politicians appeal to Christian religious beliefs as a basis of their campaigns. Despite the impression that there is a separation between church and state in the American government, the superiority of the Christian religion and ideals is evident within every aspect of our society. My question is, is does this undermine the statute of equality that is implied within the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal,” if religious superiority is embedded within our own Constitution? Doesn’t this alter the view of citizens and create prejudices against those who are not Christian? Can we truly be equal if there is no separation of church and state?
The theme of this week’s reading emphasizes the rights of the people to liberty. Within this liberty includes the people’s freedom to choose one’s religion. It is written under the U.S. Constitution, Amendment I, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This picture shows just two of the many religion that people in the U.S. are able to practice freely without worrying of consequences. In other parts of the world, in the past and even now, people still constantly struggle to express their religion due to fear of what might potentially happen to them. This right that is written in the Constitution allows us to openly speak and follow any religion that we please. We have come to the point that talking about religion even in classes is completely acceptable, I know that was not always the case in the past.
With this in mind, a question that I wonder about is, How much does this freedom affect the U.S. today and how different would it be if people are required to follow a religion enforced by the government?
I was having dinner with my parents a few days ago, and we began to discuss how San Diego schools were trying to give special times for prayer and teaching different religions to those who are not that specific religion, which they must have heard from this. My parents discussed how they did not feel it was fair for any religion to get special treatment over the other in the United States. However, I brought up a point on how they are biased, which is that the US is very centered on Christianity as well. I pointed out how many towns in the US still close on Sundays, and many different perspectives and such are influenced by Christian values, and how people judge things morally and such. The US is entirely centered on Christianity from holidays, to saying merry Christmas. These values are so imbued in the US culture and ideals and how the US is governed that some people completely miss them. However, these biases toward Christianity, despite some not being the same religion, is the fact that these values had set up a framework for the morals and expectations of the country today, or in also my own words “…politics and religion have a common object among us, but that in the beginning stages of nations the one serves as an instrument of the other.” as I discussed in pg 183 in my The Basic Political Writings. As this country had Christian and similar religious laws before we had a government, and as such these religious values co-align with today’s government.