Columns, Opinion

Burke’s Bully Pulpit: Separation of church and state

Many laws that people attribute to the Constitution are actually not found there. Some examples include the right to bear arms for self defense, the right to marry a person of the same sex, and the right for a woman to have an abortion. These cases were all won in the Supreme Court and are treated as law, as were many other important American ideals. I believe that the most important principle not explicitly stated in the U.S. Constitution is a separation between church and state.

The idea of this separation does stem from the First Amendment, which states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …” This was something that the Supreme Court would use to justify building a wall of separation between the church and the state in later rulings — an idea that has stood for over two hundred years.

In 1797, before all this happened, one of our founding fathers, John Adams, signed the Treaty of Tripoli. This treaty with North African Muslim states was created in response to U.S. ships being hijacked and taken for ransom. In it, Adams wrote, “The government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.” The treaty passed unanimously, without debate, in the U.S. Senate.

Knowing this information makes me laugh at our current political climate. Personally, I do not care what religion you are, I am going to respect it no matter what. However, when our government officials are influenced by their religion, there is a serious problem. Elected officials need to bring about change using their own thoughts, not thoughts passed down to them from thousands of years ago.

The most ironic thing about this treaty is seeing how President Donald Trump is treating his Christian heritage. On Oct. 17, after a night out at the Heritage Foundation’s President’s Club, he tweeted, “The most important truth our FOUNDERS understood was: FREEDOM is NOT a gift from Govt. FREEDOM is a GIFT from GOD.”

Wrong. Freedom is earned every day by the men and women who are fighting to protect us from evils both abroad and at home. Freedom was the sacrifice of these great people from 1776 to present day. Freedom is something that most American citizens take for granted every single day of their lives, whether they mean to or not. Freedom is not a gift in any way, shape or form.

If freedom really was a gift from “GOD,” why isn’t every human being on earth truly free? As the commander-in-chief of the greatest armed forces in the world, one would think Trump would try to take credit for keeping his citizens safe from enemies. Instead, he put on his politician mask to try to boost his popularity at some ball. It seems as though he has started to become part of the swamp.

Being able to separate your beliefs from what is good for the country is essential. I was actually surprised by Trump on the campaign trail because of how different he was from other politicians in the Republican Party on this matter. Whether we liked it or not, he spoke his mind, and almost never pushed God into his agenda.

A few months into his White House tenure, though, Trump’s tone has changed. He is now mentioning God and religion more than ever. I think there is one man to thank for this: Vice President Mike Pence.

The president, according to a piece in The New Yorker on a Pence presidency, joked about how Pence wanted to “hang them all!” (referring to gay people). While this joke was obviously said in poor taste, I think it was rooted in a small bit of truth. Pence is a very devout Christian man, and seems to urge prayer after every tragedy or disaster. Even though Trump may joke about it, the vice president is making his mark on the presidency.

The New Yorker article explains that in 2002, Pence advocated for evolution to be taught “not as fact but theory.” This man is a perfect example of someone who clearly is too blinded by religion to believe basic science.

I no longer care to see politicians saying we must pray for people that were harmed in acts of violence, natural disasters or national tragedies. Prayer does not fix anything. Action fixes things. People in power need to wake up to the fact that the American public is tired of hearing that victims are “in our prayers.” We need to be in your thoughts and in your actions — and soon.

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