politicians need to keep their religious views out of their policies
Debate Rounds (4)
Let me begin with one your statements:
"I feel it is [politicians'] duty to ignore their personal views in favor of what is best for the country."
Unfortunately, some things aren't so black-and-white. We don't always know what's best for our country—we all have opinions, but it's hard to convert these into indisputable facts. As an atheist who has spent the majority of his life studying physical sciences, I, of course, firmly believe that evolution should be taught in schools and that "creationism" is a threat to the next generation's ability to grasp even the simplest concepts of biology. As you well know, however, Mike Huckabee would respectfully disagree with my point of view.
Should Huckabee be elected to the presidency in 2016, one could safely assume that he was voted into office because the majority of voters identified with the beliefs and ideas expressed in his campaign. Therefore, he should have every right to make policies accordingly—including a war on public education, a ban on homosexual marriage, and a federal Chick-Fil-A holiday.
Would these policies be best for our country? Of course not. You and I would likely scream in outrage. But we live in a democracy, in which people are allowed to live under the rules created for and by themselves.
Judgement is all about viewpoint. Of course, there are objective truths and falsehoods, but unfortunately that doesn't guarantee that all people will recognize them. If all policymaking came down only to what is right and wrong for our country, we wouldn't have a democracy—we'd have a dictatorship run by a supercomputer capable of quantitatively determining the best course for our nation. Instead, we have a democracy, which is run by imperfect humans who make mistakes and irrational judgements. It's not perfect, but it's what we've got. We elect leaders into office when we identify with them; when we see that their IDEAS for what is best for our country are similar to ours. If Mike Huckabee runs on a platform of turning our country into a christian-right propaganda machine, and the electorate agrees with his message, then they are essentially signaling to him that they trust his judgement on policy matters based on the personal views he has expressed.
If we shouldn't elect candidates into office based on their personal beliefs, what should our votes be based on? In such a world, it wouldn't matter whether we were voting for Democrats or Republicans; we could just throw any old puppet into office and have them create policies based on the results of the latest public opinion polls. This is a representative democracy; we elect people who have personal views that accurately represent our own. I would vote for Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins to represent me; one of my best friends would likely literally try to vote for Jesus as a write-in candidate. As you said, we live in a very diverse country—this makes it impossible for all of our views to be represented. Therefore, voters have to compromise. President Obama's opinions aren't identical to mine. Until very recently, his official opinion on gay marriage was that his faith told him it was an "abomination." He's not a perfect representative for me. But I accept our differences, and I will gladly vote for him in November because he is a better representative than Mitt Romney would be.
bookwyrm forfeited this round.
While we do have a secular constitution (and, therefore, a secular government), our constitution does not require religious beliefs to be restricted—in fact, some might argue that it requires the opposite.
When choosing our leaders, we base this decision on their beliefs and proposed actions; that is, we generally try to pick a candidate whose views best represent our own. Therefore, if a president is elected who runs on a platform of strict religious conservatism, we could rightly interpret his or her election as a general acceptance of the personal views expressed in the campaign. Because his or her views have been accepted by the electorate, we could therefore conclude that, in a democratic system, the leader should free to allow these views to inform his or her decisions.
As my opponent said, the first amendment states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion..." The sentence, however does not end there. The framers of our constitution continued, "... or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." This means that, while congress is NOT allowed to declare an official state religion, financially support a particular religious organization, or require religious indoctrination in schools, etc., congress also shall NOT restrict religious beliefs or actions of citizens (so long as they don't interfere with the rights of others') (1).
Therefore, citizens of our country who choose to step in to leadership roles, who are elected into office by popular vote, are NOT required to suppress their religious views the moment they walk into the legislature—rather, the constitution requires that they are allowed to exercise these beliefs in the public domain if they so choose, so long as it does not result in "establishment" of their religion or any policies that may endorse particular religions over others. I'll use both of your examples to explain the difference:
Criminalization of abortion is not "establishment of religion." A particular religion (or even religion as a whole) isn't being "established," or even endorsed by such a policy—Christianity has no religious texts explicitly relating to abortion, nor do any other Abrahamic faiths. Whether the movement is religiously inspired is irrelevant; say, for instance, a certain politician is an adherent to a religion that mandates keyensian economics. Fiscal policy is, in and of itself, nearly as secular is you can get—therefore, such a candidate shouldn't be banned from supporting a liberal fiscal policy simply because it is associated with his religion. This is clearly an oddball hypothetical, but I use it only to demonstrate my point: The restriction requires policy itself to be secular—not the beliefs from which the policy is inspired.
Obviously, the Louisiana case is a grossly unconstitutional situation, because public money is used to financially support the beliefs of a particular religion. This is not merely a policy inspired by religion; it's simply a religious policy.
So, in conclusion, to address the motion of this debate:
Politicians don't need to keep their religious VIEWS out of their policies; they need to keep their religion out of them. On paper, this seems like a very subtle distinction, but it becomes much more clear when discussed in real-world terms, such as we have.
I'd like to thank my opponent for a great debate, and thank all the readers for their attention. It's been odd for me to argue this side of the debate; as an atheist, I tend to be viciously against politicians who overtly flaunt their religion—however, I stand firmly convinced that, as much as I disagree with those people, they should (and do) have the right to express their beliefs and shouldn't be expected to suppress them when the time comes to make the decisions we've trusted them to make for us.
(1) - http://law2.umkc.edu...
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