Too Much Faith in Public Life?
Across the nation, the role that religion and personal faith play in America’s history and in our elections has become front-page news. A new report from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found that over a third of Americans (38%) think there has been too much expression of religious faith and prayer from political leaders while 30% of Americans believe there has been too little. By comparison, when the same question was posed in 2001, only 12% thought there was too much religious expression from political leaders and 22% thought there was too little.
The campaign trail is not the only forum where religion and politics have collided recently. Florida has attracted much attention: With a ballot initiative that would fund religious institutions with taxpayer dollars and the ink drying on a law regarding the ability of students to pray in public schools, how could it not be?
- The “Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act”, which is similar to Florida’s new school prayer law, has been introduced in Tennessee.
- The constitutionality of Indiana’s school voucher program will be questioned before the Indiana State Supreme Court.
- President Obama has proposed defunding the D.C. Opportunity Scholars school voucher program, the only federally run voucher program.
- The National Coalition for Public Education heralded the removal of voucher provisions from legislation reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
- Half a dozen states want to teach creationism in biology classes.
The Union for Reform Judaism has continued to be an outspoken defender of the separation between church and state and the proper role of religion in public life. The URJ recently joined a statement urging candidates to use their personal faith in a responsible manner on the campaign trail, and Rabbi David Saperstein posed four questions to Sen. Rick Santorum, inquiring about his views on the complicated relationship public officials have with personal faith expression.
Religious expression has long been a part of this nation’s history. But as more Americans begin to recognize an inappropriate relationship between religion, public officials and government policies, it might be time to remind each other that there is no religious test to hold public office nor is there an official national religion.