Q: Should religion play a part in our government?
Lama Chuck Stanford, Rime Buddhist Center & Monastery
In general, religion should play no role in government. We’ve seen the monumental problems that can occur when a theocracy rules. Our forefathers wisely included what is known as the establishment clause in the Constitution to ensure the separation of church and state.
Freedom to practice one’s religion is essential in a democracy. Today we are a pluralistic nation practicing a variety of religions. But at the core of all of these are ethical and moral principles, such as honoring life (abstain from killing), honoring another’s property (abstain from stealing), honoring the truth (abstain from lying) and using sexuality carefully so as not to harm others.
Buddhism adds a fifth ethical principle: abstaining from intoxicants or drugs that cloud the mind. We can easily see how these common ethical principles when not followed have the potential to cause great harm to others or ourselves.
It is easy to see why no single religion should have a role in government; however, these common ethical and moral principles then may be used as a framework for the basis of government. Because they are common to all religions, they may be applied to government without the adherence to only one religion. In addition, the adoption of these principles will alleviate much suffering in our society.
Pastor Emeritus Raymond Davis Jr., Greater Corinthian Church of the Christ
Religion is not ordained by God to be a political value system as he has ordained systems of government.
Our democratic government is politically sacred mainly for two reasons: First, it champions a distinct separation from religion with the political rule of the separation of church and state. Second, democracy is invested in the freedoms of the people. So in our democratic form of government, there is a basic consensus of separation of these two value systems.
But religion is not totally adrift from our form of government. It plays a significant part, not within the actual political workings of the system, but in a strong and revered sense of God because it seems obvious that the Founding Fathers of this nation viewed America as a blessed nation.
We have and live with the confidence and assurance that God watches over us. America expresses this divine providence in word pledges, prayer and particularly in song. Consider: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God.”
And the words of the song, “God bless America, land that I love.” And who can stir our emotions and our sense of God and country more than Ray Charles’ version of “America, the Beautiful”: “America, America, God shed his grace on thee.”