Before I took this AP Government class, I’d watched clips of the current Republican debates and speeches periodically, but as we’ve studied more units in class, I began to realize how relevant the information is to this election and events around the world. So far in class, we’ve gotten through two units: foundations of American government, and civil liberties and rights. Just by studying these two units, I’ve been able to understand the news a lot better because I have a greater understanding of the principles and values that the United States is founded upon.
By being more aware of the Republican election, I’ve started to become more critical of the strong emphasis placed on the religion of the candidates. For example:
This past Wednesday, we had an exam on civil liberties and civil rights. In order to prepare for the test, I reread different sections, particularly the section that explained the relationship between church and state because I find it interesting and conflicting to the campaigns of the Republican part candidates. As a newcomer to the Republican primary campaign, the first thing I learned about each candidate was their religion and their opinions on other religions. Rick Santorum is a devout Catholic. Newt Gingrich is a converted Catholic. Mitt Romney is a Mormon. I find it especially troubling that when I think of each of these candidates, the first thought that comes to my head is their religion. I’m not sure when the election became a popularity contest of “my God is better than your God,” but it prompted me to apply the concepts of this unit to the election. This website was very helpful to me for researching this topic: “Preaching Politics or Religion?” (Mint Press News).
Article VI of the Constitution states,
“The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”
In the past unit, our class also studied the establishment clause of the First Amendment. Although the establishment clause is vague in that it bans laws “respecting an establishment of religion,” I learned that the Supreme Court has interpreted this as a separation of church and state or a wall of separation. Over time however, as shown by the current Republican election, I think the wall between church and state continues to get thinner and thinner. In a study from the Public Religion Research Institution, “a majority (56%) of the public says it is very or somewhat important for a presidential candidate to have strong religious beliefs, regardless of whether those beliefs are the same as their own.” After the unit on civil liberties and civil rights, I definitely feel stronger against people voting based on religion. While religion may be a factor of a person’s character, I don’t think that a person’s religion has anything to do with their ability to run the country. Here is another resource I found interesting, from the New York Times: “Religion at the Ballot Box.”