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. – First amendment to the U.S. Constitution
Separation of church and state. What does that mean, exactly? Well, among many other things, the first amendment gives us protection from the government establishing an “official” religion of the country, essentially enabling those residing in America to have the freedom to practice their chosen faith as they see fit, as well as preventing tax-exempt religious organization (churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, etc) from donating money to endorse or support any political candidate.
According to a 2017 article published by The Washington Post, the breakdown of Congress, by religious affiliation, or lack thereof, is:
- The House of Representatives
- 55.4%, or 241 members, identify as Protestant
- 33.1%, or 144 members, are Catholic
- 5.1%, or 22 members, are Jewish
- 1.6%, or 7 members, are Mormon
- 3.7%, or 16 members, identify as one of the following:
- Don’t know
- 58%, or 58 members, Protestant
- 24%, or 24 members, Catholic
- 8%, or 8 members, Jewish
- 6%, or 6 members, Mormon
- 4%, or 4 members, either don’t know, or Buddhist
Those numbers seem to be heavily weighted in one specific religious direction. Now, to be fair, a Religious Landscape Study done by Pew Research Center, does say that an overwhelming majority of Americans would classify themselves as some form of Christian (Catholic, Protestant, Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness, etc), so it would stand to reason that our representatives would be, well, representative of that religious makeup. Although, that’s the only area Americans are receiving accurate representation in our government, but I digress.
If we examine how many bills have been either enacted into law, or are in the process of getting there, that have been based heavily around religion, we might see a disparity between the U.S. Constitution’s first amendment, and what our government is actually doing.
As you hear cries of “We need God back in the White House!”, or “Return America to its Christian roots!”, and in slightly less blatant wording, “Make America Great Again!!”, what you’re actually hearing is, “My God is the only right one. My way of worshiping is the only right one. My church is the only right one. Everyone else, you can still practice your religion, just quietly, and definitely not in front of me, because that violates my right to freedom of religion!” I know, I know.
Religious freedom means just that: freedom to practice your religion. Full stop. There shouldn’t be one single governmentally created law, or legal case precedent, that imposes any barrier, in any way, shape, or form, to said religious practice.
So, stop flipping out because a Starbucks cup doesn’t have any “Christmas” symbols (by the way, the symbols that were removed were almost entirely Pagan in origin), or that people say “Happy holidays” in lieu of “Merry Christmas.” We aren’t the only people living in America, and we shouldn’t be the final say on the religious preferences of any other person who lives right here with us.