Keeping religion out

Story by Alex Zank, Chief Copy Editor

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On Oct. 10, a partial draft of Egypt’s constitution was released and those working on the document requested public feedback. Two controversial articles were left out, both of which deal with treating religious and state law as one.

Looking at what Egypt’s constitution could become, it is important that we also take this as a lesson we learned a long time ago, or at least should have. Religion should not play any role in crafting law nor should be used as a factor in deciding which candidate to support in any election.

Let’s start by looking at the two articles currently left out of the draft of Egypt’s constitution. There is a proposal to outlaw blasphemy and another giving clerics the responsibility to determine whether legislation abides by Sharia law. The restrictive nature these articles possess can clearly be seen. Hopefully these articles stay out of their constitution.

One of the ways we as a nation function as a successful democracy is that we keep religion separate from state. No religious doctrine is superior to American law, and this protects us from slipping into a theocracy where those who do not agree with the prevailing opinion have fewer rights, if any at all.

For some reason it appears that still not everyone understands the purpose of this “serpentine wall” — thanks to Thomas Jefferson for this phrase — established by the Framers is to protect us from the dangers of religious rule.

A 2006 Pew study shows that “a significant minority,” 32 percent of all respondents, believe the Bible should be more important than American law. It doesn’t end there. A 2011 Gallup survey found that 29 percent of respondents would like to see organized religion more influential in this nation. “More influential” is indeed a broad statement, so we cannot assume they meant religion should influence our law, but the fact remains that a sizable amount of people think that religion should have a greater role in the U.S.

This should worry people. There seems to be plenty of worry about Islamic extremism working its way into Egyptian law. There’s good reason for concern, too, since it clearly does not promote true freedom for everyone. So how is it any different in this country?

What is equally bothersome to me is that there are people out there that vote for politicians based on religious beliefs and values. This, to me, is just as bad as the person decides which candidate they vote for based on who they’d rather have a beer with.

Since when does having a certain religious affiliation make someone more capable of crafting fiscal policy? Does being Christian or Jewish mean someone would make a better commander-in-chief? The answer to these questions is an obvious no.

As Egypt continues to work on its constitution — eventually deciding what role religion will have in it — the situation should serve as a good example of what we as a nation should avoid. Please, let’s continue to keep religion out of politics.

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