Alex Aichinger
Kirsten Andersen
Brent Barksdale
Jim Couture
Andrew Downey
Natalie Farr
Joe Giardiello
Bret Hrbek
Sang Mi Kim
Ramesh Ponnuru
Tom Scerbo
Dorothy Seese
Jason Soter

Senate Candidate Bob Franks of New Jersey

Myriam Marquez is a columnist for the Orlando Sentinel

Religion and Politics

Despite rulings by the US Supreme Court on "the establishment of religion", the so-called Religious Right continues to call for posting of the Ten Commandments or "In God We Trust " in public buildings, attempts to introduce prayer into public schools through a variety of disingenuous means such as a "moment of silence", and demands that political candidates embrace their positions on a variety of social issues, most notably abortion. Exactly how does The Federalist address the issue of religion in politics in our republic?

The rationale for a written constitution, we are told, is two-fold. In the first place, it serves to confine the activities of the federal government to certain broad areas of public policy, these areas are outlined in Article 1, Section 8. In the second place, a written constitution prohibits the federal government from engaging in certain activities, activities that are essentially "private" in nature. As we are told in Federalist 84, the Constitution is intended to "regulate the general political [public] interests of the nation" and not to regulate or address "every species of personal and private concern."

The distinction between general public concerns and "personal and private" concerns is crucial to our republic, yet it is ignored by the religious right. Religion is the subject of two specific provisions in the Constitution. The more familiar is found in the First Amendment which prohibits the Congress from enacting public policy "respecting an establishment of religion" while, at the same time, guaranteeing "the free exercise" of religion by individuals. This provision complements the public-private distinction which is essential to the idea of limited government. Religion is recognized as being in the personal sphere and therefore not subject to governmental regulation.

The other religious provision is less well known and directly addresses the premise that candidates should embrace "Christian" positions on social issues, that, in effect, only "true believers" should hold office. Article 6 of the Constitution clearly states that "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States." This is an unequivocal statement that religion, or lack of it, should never be made an issue in our elections. The political process should be concerned solely with the "public" sector and must be isolated or insulated from religious doctrine, Christian or otherwise, which is the preserve of the "private" sector.

While The Federalist recognizes the importance of religious belief in a free society and lists as one of our blessing the prominence of religion in America, it also warns against a "religious sect" becoming a "political faction." It is a warning that we should take seriously. The idea that we are or should be a Christian or religious people does not automatically translate into the corollary that we are or should be a Christian or religious nation.

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