Augustana Observer

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Power outage rocks campus
Power outage rocks campus
Jack Brandt September 13, 2023

Religion shouldn’t matter in Congress

Religion+shouldnt+matter+in+Congress

Following the midterm elections, I looked up a collection of demographics for the new Congress. I was searching for updates on the amount of women and people of color compared to previous years, but one of the reports I found had an additional demographic I was disappointed to find: religious beliefs.
Capitol Hill researchers feel that the religious beliefs of our elected legislators is an important thing for voters to note. That shouldn’t be. Gender, race, income and class are all things I understand reporting on. Those are inequalities that can potentially be fixed through deliberation and policy, but the policies to protect diversity in religion were explicitly put into place over 200 years ago.
One of the things debated in legal interpretation of the Constitution is the intent of the framers. I can guarantee the framers of our Constitution intended for the religion of senators and representatives to be insignificant when it comes to their governmental position. That’s why they built in a separation of church and state as well as a freedom of religion. Religion should not affect a legislator’s ability to govern.
The demographic report listed a high percentage of congresswomen and men as some denomination of Christian. This isn’t surprising, but for me it was concerning. Without knowing how those congresspeople split into parties, I immediately distrusted them to a significant extent simply because I knew they were Christian. Which is ridiculous because I’m Christian. If there’s an initial distrust in policies simply based on that religious denotation, then Christian politicians must be doing something wrong.
The religious beliefs of a politician can and should influence their political beliefs because they should influence their morals. However, morals should be the ultimate guiding factor in law-making, not religion. The people determine the laws of this country, and the people do not all follow the same God. The law should be what the collective people compromise towards, not whatever God you follow would have the law be.
Back in 2016, Mike Pence made a speech at the Republican National Convention accepting the bid as the Vice Presidential candidate. In that speech he introduced himself as “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order.”
He said this to a crowd of cheering Republicans and on national television. He knew his audience to be his potential voters and felt it necessary to explain his intentions to govern as a Christian first. That betrays the very basis of this country, founded by those hoping to escape religious persecution.
Religion is a right in America, as is free and fair elections for a representative government. If religion is playing a part in our politics, we’re only half the democracy we pretend to be.
Graphic by Cora Lamb.

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Religion shouldn’t matter in Congress