Religion and Politics | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Thus 65 percent of Americans say that religion is important in their daily So Americans feel far less secure economically, and in relation to. The relation between religion and politics continues to be an important theme through taxes and subject to the direction of the government (for example, the of Christian imagery of slavery and freedom in justifying the American Civil War. Still, the share of Americans who profess to be Christians has been . As controversy continues over the relationship between government and.
That exclusion, after all, is not motivated by pointing at religious conviction, as such, but by pointing at religiously inspired behavior. Attention must be paid to two interrelated issues. What part should government play regarding religion, substantively and should the government support religious communities financially?
Government and religious doctrine In the past, tensions between state and church were a regular phenomenon. As a result, governments were often inclined to interfere with the organization of religious communities and with religious doctrine. In England, the king as head of state, formally is still the supreme governor of the Church of England. In this connection, it should be mentioned that the Catholic bishops in the Alsace are appointed by the French president, a rather bizarre arrangement in a laical state.
In Turkey, the Diyanet, the Directorate General for Religious Matters, not only appoints imams 42 but decides, as well, that respect for the state authorities and the army have to be represented as a religious duty. The power of the directorate to appoint imams is also relevant in other countries.
The majority of the Dutch mosques for Muslims with a Turkish background fall under the powers of this directorate. Nevertheless, in a democracy under the rule of law, such forms of governmental influence should be rejected.
The government should not prescribe which religious doctrine is right or true. Government has another vocation, and such entanglement often leads to advantages for certain denominations or certain currents of belief. From a religious point of view, it is also undesirable that the substance of a religion be dependent on political institutions and political decisions.
Preachers who teach that the supreme being rejects Western materialistic and degenerate societies may raise concern. The same holds true for the preaching of a rigid and archaic morality.
There is no reason, however, for government intervention. Fundamental freedoms do exist for strongly dissenting convictions. For example, the opinion that heretics and apostates, after they are dead, will burn in hell, is a rather common fundamentalist starting point and does not amount to advocacy of lawless action.
If preaching or teaching switches to coercion or incitement to criminal acts, of course, grounds for government intervention exist. Up till now, in particular, government restrictions have been discussed. Governmental restraint in criminalizing dissenting opinions, however, leaves open the possibility that government itself defends and propagates liberal values. State aid for religious communities Another aspect of government involvement with churches and religious communities might be in backing them financially.
In a lot of countries, there exist various forms of government aid to religious communities.
Government and Religion: CQR
In France, the government is the owner of many church buildings and puts these buildings at the disposal of religious communities. Normal tax law sanctions apply. This church tax is an 8 percent surcharge above the tax on wages. This regulation results in the national religious communities in Germany being among the richest religious communities in Europe. This regulation pertains to only the recognized denominations. The main criteria for recognition is whether a denomination supplies a need for a segment of the population.
By now, also imams receive a state salary. Religious communities in England, including the established Church of England, do not receive direct state subsidies, nor do the religious communities in the United States. Jefferson was among the opponents.
In other countries, the supposed utility of religion is a point for attention as well. A counterargument could be that a lot of citizens do not really show a spiritual or religious need. Attributing such a need to every citizen is based on a unproven portrayal of mankind. An additional, tricky question is whether government should be allowed to control—as in the health service—the quality of the spiritual and religious services. In this respect, arguments against state aid are advanced as well.
First, a citizen should not be forced to pay taxes for backing the preaching of convictions contrary to his own deeply felt convictions.
This argument carries a certain weight in the U. The European Commission of Human Rights, for example, judged the support of religious communities with general public resources not contrary to freedom of religion, as laid down in article 9 ECHR.
In this respect, churches cannot be compared, for example, with museums or sports associations, which are often receive state aid.
Introduction to the Relationship Between Religion and Government
A government call to play sports more regularly, or to visit museums is not very controversial; a government call to visit churches or mosques more regularly, would be a horse of a different color.
One might put forward that only religious communities that feel very strongly about democratic values and the rule of law deserve state aid. Such an appraisal of religious doctrine, however, is neither possible nor desirable. In this respect, one may point to former local Dutch government plans to bring more liberal forms of Islam into action to minimize radicalization.
Such a policy might actually damage the credibility of more liberal religious communities.
Therefore, in most countries governments take care, for example, to supply the spiritual needs in the military.
State, religion and the forming of political opinion In the United States, political candidates often use or have to use religious references to attract voters; in other countries, such as Germany and the Netherlands, this is less obvious, even though, at the same time, political parties with religious backgrounds do exist.
In this section, we will deal with several interrelated issues. First, the meaning and relevance of religious arguments in political debate; second, the question of whether a democracy under the rule of law should limit religiously inspired political ambitions.
The answer to the question as to whether religiously inspired political parties have a special position follows naturally from this argument. Religiously inspired political arguments 58 It would be strange if diversity in a religiously pluralistic society would not show itself in the process of political opinion formation.
Believers are religiously motivated, which does not always change when they enter the political arena.
Introduction to the Relationship Between Religion and Government
Moreover, religious communities may have special interests that they want to have represented in political debate. In a democracy, political rights like freedom of speech and association guarantee that everybody is entitled to participate in political discussions. In view of these fundamental rights, religiously inspired contributions have the same status as other contributions. From this point of view, religious arguments in the political debate might be considered less relevant.
Religious points of view may enrich discussions with arguments that otherwise would be without a voice. Such an idea casts doubt on all political movements wishing to build a perfect society.
Another possibility could be that religiously inspired participants in the political debate translate their views and arguments into arguments with which anybody—believer or nonbeliever—might agree.
Years ago, the main argument of a Dutch Reformed political party against the liberalization of pornography laws was that pornography should be considered a gross offense against God. The assumption that religious arguments need some sort of translation is also important because compromises play a rather important part in democratic political opinion formation and decision making.
A religious argument that is tantamount to an appeal to the inalterable will of the supreme being probably prevents concluding political compromises. Limits to political opinion formation Up till now, the argument in this section has focused mainly on the desirability of a well-functioning political debate.
- Religion and politics in the United States
- Religion and Politics
- Why Religion Rules American Politics
So far, the need for juridical norms limiting political rights has not been discussed. The situation might be different if religiously inspired political movements strive to establish a theocratic political system, wish to abolish equality between men and women, or want to classify nonbelievers as second-rate citizens. Political freedoms are indivisible in the sense that they protect views and aspirations completely contrary to the starting points of a democracy under the rule of law.
As long as political opinions are not considered incitement to imminent lawlessness, they are protected, no matter if they are, for example, of a racist or dictatorial nature. In other countries, a more substantive concept of democracy prevails. As a result, the Constitution presents a framework for acceptable political opinion formation. The Dutch Constitution does not explicitly lay down such a substantive framework; no abuse-of-fundamental-rights provision is included.
Nevertheless, it is still possible that unwritten supraconstitutional starting points exist. Nevertheless, the position of religiously inspired political parties is clear enough.
These parties have, in principle, the same position as other political parties. Political parties which are convicted for discrimination may lose their state subsidies.
State, religion, and social services State and religion meet in society in the social and cultural domain. Of old, churches and religious communities have been involved in physical and mental health care and have supported the poor. Religious organizations in these fields were and still are assisted by a relatively large number of volunteers.
First, the above-mentioned services have been professionalized. As a result, the link with religion has become weaker, and the room for voluntary work has diminished. Second, the state has claimed a greater role for itself. So the question arises, what might be the role of private organizations with a religious background and, more particularly, whether and under what conditions government may or should subsidize such organizations?
Looking at different countries, a varied picture may be seen. In France, after the Revolution, the health care system was secularized, while, at the same time, illnesses were treated on a more medical-scientific basis. The present strong stress on laicism does not mean, however, that organizations such as the Catholic Juvenile Assistance Organization are excluded from financial support by the government. Policy considerations of a financial nature, for example, could point in another direction.
On the other, organizations with a religious background, active in the child welfare, for example, or care for the elderly, do receive state support. Second, the primary effect of the funding measure may not advance or obstruct religion. And third, the measure should not lead to an excessive entanglement between state and religion.
People might prefer the social, cultural, or health services offered by such organizations.
Still, it must be stressed that those organizations are supported because and only insofar as they meet professional standards and, therefore, their activities can be considered to be in the public interest. That implies that government may and should lay down quality requirements. These requirements, however, do not regard the religious background of these organizations but their professional activities.
State, religion, and education For ages, churches and religious organizations have played a central role in the field of education. In the nineteenth century, however, in a lot of Western countries a system of public education was developed with, originally, some kind of Christian character. Lessons in religion, the substance of which is decided by the churches, are a normal part of the curriculum in a lot of public schools.
Pupils, however, may obtain an exemption. In France, primary and secondary schools in the public education sector are obliged to ban all religious influences. That is thought to be the only way a child is able to develop into a free citizen of the French Republic.
In this approach, subsidies for private schools with a religious background are not really acceptable. Some stricter Protestant groups found this form of public education neither flesh nor fowl; Catholics were not satisfied, either.
So these denominations started their own schools. Inreligious parties had achieved such influence in parliament they managed to insert a provision in the Constitution to the effect that private schools have a right to state funding on an equal level with schools in the public education sector. That is the main reason why in the Netherlands the private education sector has an enormous size. Nowadays, however, only in a small percentage of these private schools, religion plays an all-important role.
As far as public education is concerned, teaching of Christian morals as such has disappeared, to be replaced by a certain openness to different religions and philosophies of life. Various interests Churches and religious parents consider education at school one of the means of conveying to children valuable religious ideas.Was America Founded to Be Secular?
It, too, wants to convey certain common values to all future citizens. The first question is: Should the government support private schools with religious backgrounds and, if so, under what conditions? To what extent should there be room for religious expression in the public education sector? State subsidies to private schools Given the great national differences in Europe, it is self-evident that freedom of education, laid down in article 2 of the First Protocol of the ECHR, does not oblige states to support private schools.
State support leads to diversity in the supply of education. Citizens take responsibility in governing these schools. These advantages are similar to those in the social service sector. Again, the starting point is that the government will back private schools because and only so far as the education meets quality standards and the teachers are professionals.
That implies that disciplines have to be taught thoroughly. Pupils must learn about evolution theory. Therefore, some knowledge of the presuppositions thereof, such as freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and equality between citizens, is mandatory. These presuppositions are rather neutral and do not push forward any particular portrayal of mankind.
If the religious background of a school prevents fulfillment of these conditions, state support should be out of the question.
In other words, one may expect from private schools a certain openness to democracy under the rule of law. A counterargument might be that these conditions aim too high, given the social and cultural background of some pupils. The argument, however, is not convincing if it is meant that a lot of pupils have a background where democratic values are missing altogether. That would be all the more reason to pay attention to these values at school.
The religious propensities of immigrants mean that they are receptive to the conservative religious message and can be induced to vote across class lines. In doing so they support an agenda that favors the wealthy and makes them even poorer. Given this threat from the religious right, Democrats feel pressure to emphasize their own religious credentials, or risk losing a chunk of the poorer immigrant population who make up their natural constituency. So religion is embroiled in American political life and that magnifies the apparent significance of religion in people's everyday lives.
According to wits, U. American politicians talk a lot about religion. Yet, they have no more in common with theocrats like the Taliban than ordinary Americans have with the religious fervor of ordinary Afghanis.
Many poor people in America undermine their economic interests by voting for Republican politicians who are interested in further concentrating wealth in the hands of the affluent. They do so, in part, because the Republicans appeal to their religious propensity. That religious propensity is strengthened by increasing insecurity in the lives of the poor because difficult living conditions are associated with increased religiosity.
That seems like another great reason for really separating church and state. Why atheism will replace religion: The triumph of earthly pleasures over pie in the sky.