Barack Obama: The Audacity Of Hope. Chapter Six: Faith; Book Review. Law And Faith.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution are the basis for religious independence in the United States. However when it comes to religion citizens hold differing opinions on how the government should deal with certain practices. Some want school prayer, others prefer marriage to only be between heterosexual couples and others would make abortion illegal. This creates divisions among voters, some who are described as social conservatives who generally follow Evangelical Christian principles or conservative Catholic principles.
More religiously liberal or secular citizens may or may not have different opinions regarding these highly emotionally charged issues which include prayer in government supported education or medical care involving the distribution of contraceptive information and devices as well as abortion and abortion information. These problems find their way into politics and create another dividing line between voters in addition to those who are economic liberals or conservative economically.
Those who are social liberals are not always economic liberals and vice versa. Obama states that he was raised as a Christian although his mother and grandparents were not regular church goers. His father, whom he saw little of, was raised a Muslim but by the time he married Obama’s mother he was a confirmed Atheist. However his mother looked at religion in a detached anthropological way rather than with any fervent commitment.
When he went to Chicago to work as a community organizer among church groups he saw that religion was a sustaining part of the life of many people he met. Eventually he too accepted Christianity as a part of his life and was baptized. However he also took note of the fact that Christianity accepted the good as well as the bad hoping to better the lives of each through faith.
Alan Keyes a, Harvard educated black man whom the Republican Party selected to run against him when he ran for the Senate, was both a social conservative, an economic conservative and with strongly held Christian beliefs that permitted no other point of view other than the religious values he held.
While Mr. Obama is against gay marriage he believes that the Constitution permits abortion and therefore it is legal and should remain so. This belief was heresy to Mr. Keyes who said Obama’s faith was adulterated and he was not a true Christian.
Thus when conservative Christians assert themselves politically to instill their values in our laws it creates friction between the more tolerant Liberals who believe that Constitutional principles tie our hands on issues like school prayer or abortion. Thus while faith is an important part of American life for Democrats as well as Republicans there are those who would use its tenets for partisan purpose to undermine our Constitution which is a secular document which also permits the establishment of any lawful religion and the right to the free exercise of one’s lawful religious beliefs.
However Church and State are separate and one should not meddle in the legitimate affairs of the other. The Constitution was intended to keep religion separate from government after the founders had witnessed the wars and turmoil religious differences had created in Europe and from which many citizens or there forbears had emigrated to the United States to escape and find religious freedom