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Category Archives: Religion

AP Government Ruling My Daily Thoughts

Since AP US Government has begun, the information that I have learned has spilled over into my daily life. From classes at school, to watching the news, to hearing my family’s conversations, AP US Government has begun to influence the way I view my everyday surroundings.

At St. Cecilia Academy, the school I attend, it is normal to discuss politics as it relates to our everyday lives. St. Cecilia is a Catholic school, so one can imagine that in the last year how the topic of politics has come up more often in theology classes with the new health care mandate. AP US Government has given me the knowledge to filter through what is told to me by my religion teachers and understand what is constitutional and what is not. St. Cecilia is located on what is known as the Dominican Campus in Nashville. On the Dominican Campus, Aquinas College, a catholic college, is also located along with Overbrook School, a Catholic grade school.  Recently, Aquinas College along with six other Middle Tennessee Catholic institutions filed a lawsuit against the federal government over the mandate within the Affordable Care Act requiring that businesses provide their employees with contraceptives and other sterilization processes. If one has any notion about the Catholic faith, he or she would understand how these medical treatments are not in agreement centuries of teachings within Catholicism. (If you want to read more about it, here is a good link: http://www.tennessean.com/article/20120913/NEWS01/309130042/Nashville-Diocese-sues-over-health-law-s-insurance-mandate-contraceptives-morning-after-pills)  Knowing of this and the Catholic faith along with having the intelligence that I have gained from AP Government, I am able to make what I believe is a just decision in what to believe is right or wrong about this situation.

Today, the US government is in constant turmoil over national debt and the consistent threat of the government being shut down due to unpassed budgets or bills. When I hear this on the news (which I happened to a few days ago) I no longer have to turn to my dad and ask him why this could happen. AP Government has enlightened my mind on the workings of our government and how/why things occur. Also, during this election, I have become aware through AP Government of how the United States was not originally intended to only be a two-party system. As my AP US History teacher describes it, the founding fathers would be “rolling over in their graves” if they knew the United States had become a two-party system. By primary documents I have read in AP Government, I know that the electoral college was invented with the intention that no single person would win by majority because there would be multiple parties running. Today, this is obviously not the case.

My family is very wide on the political spectrum. I have family members whose political beliefs range from liberal to conservative. One can imagine that when the topic of politics comes up at family gatherings, tensions rise substantially because of this wide spectrum of beliefs. However, when this does occur now, I feel much more confident in my political beliefs and that my beliefs make sense with the constitution. AP Government has also made me feel as if I am “freer” of the typical stigma that children only follow their parents political beliefs. It is amazing what an understanding of the constitution and inner workings of the government can do for you.

 

Risky Business: Religion in the Primaries

Recently in our AP Gov class, we watched one of the signature “Democracy in America” videos that featured a segment on John F. Kennedy’s campaign in West Virginia during the 1960 primaries. The segment touched on Kennedy’s rather gutsy campaign in West Virginia after a slim victory in the Wisconsin primary– though West Virginia is typically one of the smaller primaries, Kennedy’s Catholicism magnified the significance of the election particularly on account of the large Protestant proportion of West Virginian voters. Though it was brief, the segment resonated with me. With all the current hubbub about religion in politics, a particular quote from JFK in one of his speeches while campaigning in West Virginia provoked some thought in me.

“Now there is nothing in my religious faith that prevents me from executing my oath of office. If I thought that there was I wouldn’t take it. If I thought there was I shouldn’t be not even president– I shouldn’t be Senator, I shouldn’t have been Congressman. To be frank with you I shouldn’t have been taken into the service of the United States. Because on that occasion in 1941 I also swore to uphold and defend the Constitution.”

After having a conversation with my dad about Kennedy’s campaign strategies in the midst of this, we both found it interesting that JFK ultimately aimed to develop close, personal relationships with voters, having individual conversations and sending them personal thank you notes afterward. Additionally, though, Kennedy used these personal relationships to diminish the typically harsh notions of Catholicism. He took both his religion and his allegiance to the Constitution very seriously, as well as the relationship between the two. However, it seems with the primaries today, the regard for that same relationship is different. While I have no doubt that the nominees currently running have any intention of letting their religious beliefs prevent them from executing their oath of office, one could argue that some of their beliefs would violate certain aspects of the Constitution. For example, Mitt Romney was recently quoted saying, “Planned Parenthood, we’re going to get rid of that” and if elected, he would reduce funding exponentially to the program. While this could have been simply a tactical move to bolster his refuted reputation as a “true conservative” and possibly to appeal more to conservative evangelical voters, his decision to “get rid of” Planned Parenthood would ultimately violate the implied right to privacy in the Constitution– not to mention the general welfare of women’s health. So finally, while I’m not saying there is or isn’t a “right way” to regard that relationship between upholding religious beliefs and belief in the Constitution, the intent underneath the beliefs should always remain clear and visible.

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2012 in Elections & Campaigns, Religion

 

What’s Religion Got to Do with it?

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.”

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2012 in Elections & Campaigns, Religion