Something is heating up GOP presidential primaries after Mitt Romeny’s win in the Florida primary and it’s not the humidity. GOP leaders are declaring that a war on religion is here. First, it was Rick Perry with his “strong” video that proclaimed a war on religion exists. Now, it’s Newt Gingrich who tried to harmonize Perry’s message by accusing both Mitt Romney and President Obama: “I think Gov. Romney is extraordinarily insensitive to religious freedom in America and the Obama administration is clearly engaged in a war on religion.”
Religious persecution or a war commanded by Romney or Obama is just not there. Such claims are aimed at charging a base of the electorate to vote in favor of a particular candidate. Why should we believe there isn’t a war on religion? There are three reasons:
Lack of proof. If there is a war, then there must be casualties. A war on religion means that people are not free to worship or practice. Where are the storm troopers coming into churches and shutting the place down? Why use such charged language of “war” like “war on terror”, “war on drugs”, and now “war on religion”? Rumor and speculation of a “war” via email forwards to not prove that Romney or any other politician is waging a war on religion. That’s not proof. Of course students can pray in school, but a public school cannot force anyone to pray even though 76% of the country favors a moment of silence instead of school sponsored prayer. Why is that we don’t like government telling us what do, but some people don’t mind telling people how and when to pray? Both republican and democratic political leaders have historically proposed and passed legislation protecting private expressions of faith. The unpopular new health care law even has religious exceptions, in which Amish and Mennonites have signed up for. Recently, all nine members (conservative, moderate, and liberal) of the The Supreme Court upheld the “ministerial exception”. If there is a war, I’m not seeing the blood.
Expression of religion continues to be robust. If Tim Tebow showed us anything, it’s that expression of religion (more specifically, Christianity) is still alive and well in the United States. A Gallup poll reports that 78% of people in this country are some type of Christian. Almost 93% of Americans celebrate Christmas. Prayer is still recited before every House of Representative and Senate sessions. We continue to have political leaders and a president attend and even promote The National Prayer Breakfast. New government religious initiatives have been created, such as a faith and community service program for young people. The tension of allowing private expressions of religion in public space verses government expressions of religion keeps a balance of freedom of religion and freedom from religion.
Our culture has always and continues to support religion. At the genesis of our country, states and colonies collected taxes to support churches. Our society pays for religious chaplains for our army, navy, air force, and marines to minister to our troops. Churches don’t have to pay sales tax. Most, don’t have to follow certain employment laws. We have an office of faith based programs at the White House. We give tax breaks for ministers by allowing certain exemptions for their housing costs. We are a nation that supports religion and churches. We help religious leaders, pay for chaplains, and give tax breaks for churches. If there was really a war on religion, all those religious and church benefits would go away. On top of that, about 90% of Americans believe we should keep, “In God we Trust” on our money. Still, 69% approve of churches applying for government funding to provide social services. We like our religion.
Simply put, there is no war. Only people playing to people’s fears in order to get votes and popularity. Religion and faith has always and will continue to be a part of our way of life. #tebowing