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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    The Role of Religion in Politics

    In the pledge of allegiance, citizens affirm an oath to their country under God. While this is a diverse nation, filled with different cultures and concepts of deities and religions, there is no denying the importance that religion has in the public sector. It stands to reason that this fact should be echoed in the words of our elected officials. On August 17th, presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain participated in a faith-based forum at the Saddleback mega-church in Lake Forest, California where they discussed the implications of their religious faith. Although the candidates obviously differed on points important to their Christian faiths, they seemed to have arrived from similar starting points.

    McCain, who is pro-life, indicated the importance of viewing a fetus as just an underdeveloped human child, with all the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness which is afforded to any other citizen. Obama supports upholding Roe v. Wade, because he views the life and well-being of the mother, in terms of medical and financial health, as an important factor in the success of a family. While these too views, based on two different sets of equally valid moral systems, come to two different conclusions, it illustrates the importance of why religious and faith-based thinking is completely appropriate in an election campaign. America is a nation full of religious ideals and it is inevitable that policy and law will be based on the morality preached in certain religions. While this may be as simple as ‘do not kill,’ more complex and delicate issues such as gay marriage and abortion, which are not so clearly answered and clash depending on the religious text one subscribes to. As long as the American people are in disagreement over these issues, based on religious reasons, the candidates will also have their differences. According to Obama, it is his faith in God that teaches him compassion to those in need, and why he supports granting government funds to faith-based organizations. McCain agrees with this, though his similar professions of faith in one God leads him to different conclusions about what the law ought to be. Of course the danger, when making faith-based appeals for votes, arguments could descend into a contest of which candidate is the “most religious.” This is risk the candidates should take, but try to avoid. We have to recognize and respect that we live in a country where faith based issues are the most heated and the hardest to negotiate on. In a democracy, the majority decision will inevitably not make everyone happy, so we must strive to try to preserve the rights and liberties of everyone, even if that means leaving these now federal issues to a more local level, so individual morality can be legislated on a more personal level, to preserve the freedoms of a greater majority.

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