One Nation Under God Divided By Religion

by Mary Rohweder

Widener University Political Science Major

Throughout American history, politicians have struggled to govern under the establishment cause – separating religion from government – while facing controversial religious issues that become involved with the world of politics. Recently two religious issues have been brought to America’s attention – the overturn of Proposition 8 in California and the controversy with contraception for employees of Catholic institutions. These issues have made media headlines, but I believe it is important to research the stances of the President and Presidential candidates.

In response to the overturn of Proposition 8, which formerly outlawed gay marriage in the state of California, Republican candidates have expressed their disdain and exuded support for the protection of traditional marriage while President Obama has not taken a declarative stance. Mitt Romney released a statement supporting states’ rights to ban gay marriage and for citizens to preserve and protect traditional marriage. He stated that the overturn “underscores the vital importance of this election and the movement to preserve our values. I believe marriage is between a man and a woman and, as president, I will protect traditional marriage and appoint judges who interpret the Constitution as it is written and not according to their own politics and prejudices.” Newt Gingrich commented that this action was a “radical overreach of federal judges and their continued assault on the Judeo-Christian foundations of the United States.” Rick Santorum declared, ” For a court, any court, to usurp the power and will of the people in this manner on an issue this fundamental to the foundation of our society is wrong.” President Obama has also been opposed to same sex marriage and states that his views on the issue are “evolving.” However, the Obama administration has taken action on behalf of furthering gay rights by removing the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy in the military.

The contraceptive argument is firmly divided between women’s rights and people’s freedoms. The President has taken a stance on behalf of women’s rights, whereas the Republicans claim freedom of speech and religion. The Obama administration has made a commitment to ensure all women will have access to contraception coverage. President Obama initially proposed that Catholic institutions would be required to provide female employees with contraception, but recently compromised. According to the new compromise, Catholic institutions will not be forced to offer contraception to their employees; instead, insurers must offer full coverage to any women who work at such institutions. Santorum took the most oppositional stance, declaring, “It’s not about contraception….[I]t’s about freedom of speech; it’s about freedom of religion. It’s about government control of your lives and it’s got to stop.”

Overall, Republican candidates have expressed very conservative positions on religion, choosing either to preserve the traditional beliefs of the Church or to call for the protection of citizen rights. President Obama has taken action on certain issues but has compromised, such as not endorsing same-sex marriage and compromising on the contraceptive issue. The culture war of religion has been creating great tension in the Presidential candidates, especially since voters are all watching.