People often wonder, “what do you learn in law school?” Law school teaches you to think differently. Part of that includes teaching students how to analyze. I was reminded of this as I watched the news reports regarding the results of Alabama’s election earlier this week. I watched a clip where Jake Tapper informed Ted Crockett that elected officials do not have to use the Bible to be sworn into office, but you can use any religious text or even the constitution.
This country was founded on religious freedom. It is in the constitution; the intentions of the founding fathers were clear. I think church and state are separated for good reason. In law school, you learn to identify the issue, identify the rule that applies, apply that rule to an analysis and then state your conclusion. There are many problems with using religion to analyze policy.
For starters, which religion would serve as the gold standard? There are hundreds of religions being practiced in the United States. Within the Christian faith there are many different denominations that have fundamental differences caused by traditions and different Biblical interpretations. Who decides which of the denominations should serve as the standard and be applied? I’m not saying religious principals have not influenced policy in this country, but that may have worked when majority of the population belonged to the same faith and when members of other faiths were marginalized because of their beliefs. Times are changing.
Consider whether there is a question on the constitutionality of a law. The rule or case that it is thought to violate would be analyzed. The analysis would consider (1) applicable case law and any governing statutes; (2) whether there are any exceptions to the rule; and (3)address any public policy concerns.
I saw none of that reasoning when the Moore’s voters were interviewed, not that I expected a full legal analysis. I saw support for Moore’s perceived Christian beliefs, despite the fact that his words and alleged actions contradict those beliefs. When asked when was America great, he responded “I think it was great at the time when families were united—even though we had slavery—they cared for one another…Our families were strong, our country had a direction.” Let’s be clear: Slavery was hell. Slaves lived under the constant threat of their families being torn apart and separated, not to mention the physical and sexual abuse. The impacts from slavery are still felt today. I’m reminded of it everyday when I consider the origins of my last name.
I visited a plantation this past weekend. The docent informed us that they recently acquired information about the slaves of that particular plantation. He had a paper with a list of first names only. The docent explained that it bothered him that they did not have any last names listed. Now the docent was an older man, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was in his seventies. Despite his age, he did not know that often times slaves took on the last name of the master.
Yes, a person’s religious beliefs may affect the policies they support, but they might not. However, purported religious beliefs alone should not be the only consideration when choosing a political candidate that will represent you. Especially when there are allegations of pedophilia and the candidate believes slavery was a great time in America’s history. However, I suspect his voters have more in common with him, than simply belonging to the same faith. But I will stick to the reasons they gave for supporting him, “He’s a good Christian man.”
There is good reason for church and state to remain separate.