For God’s sake, vote

Stephen D’Abreau

Stephen D'Abreau

There is an old adage that says, “There are two things you do not talk about in polite company: politics and religion.” For the most part, no one heeds this warning.

If you were watching Tuesday’s vice presidential debate keenly, you may have noticed that the question of religion and politics came up for the two nominees. For a nation that has a “separation between church and state,” religion and politics seem to mix a lot.

And this has always been the case.

Even before the United States was recognized as a nation, references to God were everywhere. Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” and other references come to mind.

But it goes much deeper than that. Many nations actually have what’s called a “national motto” in addition to flags and anthems. For example, the French motto is “Liberté, égalité, fraternité” (Liberty, Equality, Fraternity). Our official motto is “In God We Trust.” This official motto can be seen everywhere, even on our money.

So where does the separation of church and state come from?

The phrase “separation of church and state,” popularized by Jefferson, originated from the First Amendment of the Constitution, which states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …” The U.S. Supreme Court references the phrase quite often in rulings involving the interpretation of the Constitution.

This brings us back to the debate — Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence both have spoken about the importance of their faith, but an important question really stood out during the debate: What should the relationship between politics and religion be?

Legally and historically, the First Amendment has existed to prevent the establishment of a theocracy, and to promote and protect religious liberty and freedom.

But this does not mean that America is a secular country, which should be obvious from our national motto. The separation of church and state exists to protect freedom of religion, not to create a country free of religion, even in public discourse.

But the question that every voter needs to grapple with is a personal one: If you have a religion, or are a secularist, how should those beliefs about religion influence your politics? Is your religion, or lack thereof, private? Or is it a public matter?

Answering this fundamental question first will give you greater insight on how you should vote, not just in this election but in every election: Should you vote for God’s sake?

Stephen D’Abreau is a columnist, contact him at [email protected].