Stoffa: Don’t let belief in God co-opt your voting decision

Gabriel Stoffa

Religious beliefs are a great thing, and if it makes you feel better about life, don’t let anyone tell you differently. But don’t let religion define how you interpret issues when voting for president.

Cathedral Age, a magazine from Washington National Cathedral, asked President Barack Obama and likely presidential contender Mitt Romney eight questions Aug. 21 concerning their views on faith in public life and in their personal lives.

In the interview, Romney said those who “seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God” aren’t following our founding fathers’ plans for the country.

Romney brought up the position of church and state, noting religion has been decreased in recent years. At one point, he said: “We are a nation ‘under God,’ and in God, we do indeed trust.”

Assuming he was focusing on the line in the “Pledge of Allegiance,” that little bit about us being a nation “under God” isn’t exactly true.

The original version of pledge, written in August 1892 by Francis Bellamy, read: “I pledge allegiance to my flag and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

In 1954, “under God” was added after “one nation” to make the version we know today. It was added due to President Dwight D. Eisenhower encouraging Congress that Christian religion was essentially an antithesis to the rising Communist menace, not because religion was cornerstone of this country’s politics.

That idea was likely thanks to this piece from Aug. 9, 1953:

Communism “regards religion psychologically as mere wishful thinking, intellectually as the product of fear and ignorance, and historically as serving the ends of exploiters,” according to “Communism’s Challenge to Christianity” by Martin Luther King Jr.

Now, Romney is probably as aware of these facts as most people are, which is to say he isn’t.

But don’t think this is just a Romney issue. In the interview Obama was asked: “How does faith play a role in your life?” He said: “At the end of the day, God is in control — and my main responsibility is to love God with all of my heart, soul and mind, and to love my neighbor as myself. Now, I don’t always live up to that standard, but it is a standard I am always pursuing.”

Both Romney and Obama, and all those other politicians, don’t really need to mention religion as they weave their political webs, except as a way of manipulating people to agree with them.

You see, religion was only mentioned in one place in the original Constitution (Article VI, paragraph 3): “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

Religion is later mentioned in the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Historically, so many religions — Christianity and Islam for obvious examples — killed people in the name of “God” during religious wars that it was a no-brainer to not let a religion be a deciding factor for the establishment of our new country and its laws.

I guess maybe, just maybe, our founding fathers had the right idea in leaving out any religious inclusion in government, and that maybe we need to stop pushing religion into politics apart from as war effort. It was a great political maneuver for stability against opposition in war — we even used it as a clarion call during our war for independence — but, like all wartime decisions, it should have been set aside when peace was again seemingly established.

Or instead, why not go the other direction and treat religions as political organizations? We already describe corporations as people.

Christianity seems to be the leading choice in America, so why not ditch the Founding Fathers’ advice to keep religion out, since so many Americans have this burning desire to have politicians use religion, specifically Christianity, as a basis for laws?

Does that sound like a country you want, one where the Bible is the basis for our laws? If you’ve read the Bible, you might have a few qualms with that idea. Unless of course you think it is okay to just use pieces of our Constitution today to keep the peace, much as people adhere only to pieces of the Bible and ignore others to suit government needs.

Let’s stop trying to make decisions about politicians based on religious beliefs or willingness to cite God as the basis for their proposals. We are a country of ideas, and most of the popular religions don’t allow for the kind of freedoms and ideas this country is based upon.

We can keep our religion, and we can live by our religion, but we have to allow religion to be secondary to government so that we can all continue to pursue, and someday share, equality.