In an ideal world, I shouldn’t know a politician’s or Supreme Court justice’s religious beliefs.
I think religion should be a private matter that isn’t used to garner support from voters and other people.
I especially don’t think taxpayer dollars should be allocated to churches.
Churches have seen an increase in federal funds
According to NPR, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said President Trump and Vice President Pence “made sure” churches would be included in the Small Business Administration (SBA) providing economic relief.
Under the Trump administration, the federal government has already been providing funds directly to churches, synagogues, mosques and other religious organizations, according to NPR.
In 2018, the Federal Emergency Management Agency changed its rules to make houses of worship eligible for disaster aid.
The new SBA program significantly increased federal funding of religious institutions.
Under the new Paycheck Protection Program, businesses with fewer than 500 employees, including faith-based organizations, are eligible to receive loans of up to $10 million, with at least 75% of the money going to cover payroll costs.
The loans are largely forgivable, so churches and other houses of worship don’t have to worry about paying all the money back.
According to Associated Press, four dioceses sued the federal government to receive loans, even though they had entered bankruptcy proceedings due to the mounting number of clergy sexual abuse claims.
The Small Business Administration rules prohibit loans to applicants in bankruptcy.
However, the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, New Mexico, a now-closed and notorious treatment center for predator priests, prevailed in court, receiving nearly $1 million.
On the U.S. territory of Guam, well over 200 clergy abuse lawsuits led the Archdiocese of Agana to seek bankruptcy protection, but they received at least $1.7 million.
According to Associated Press, the U.S. Roman Catholic Church’s haul of federal aid may have reached, or even exceeded, $3.5 billion, making them among the biggest winners in the U.S. government’s pandemic relief efforts.
So, while according to the Internal Revenue Service, “churches and religious organizations are generally exempt from income tax and receive other favorable treatment under the tax law,” they are receiving billions in taxpayer funds that they are largely not contributing to in the first place.
Meanwhile, many small businesses that do not have mounting numbers of sexual abuse cases and bankruptcy found themselves with a dire lack of aid, causing thousands of businesses across the country to close their doors either temporarily or permanently.
These bailouts were a gross misuse of emergency aid.
‘In God We Trust’
The phrase “In God We Trust” should absolutely not be the official motto of the U.S., nor should it be printed on our money.
In 1956, President Eisenhower (R) signed a law making “In God We Trust” the official U.S. motto. The law also mandated that the motto must be printed on all U.S. currency.
In an entry in The Society Pages, Lisa Wade, an author with a PhD in sociology, wrote that the political motivation behind the new official motto was not to appease Christian Americans, but to claim moral high ground over and demonize the Soviet Union.
Wade wrote, “Placing ‘In God We Trust’ on the U.S. dollar was a way to establish the United States as a Christian nation and differentiate them from their enemy.”
But, the U.S. is not a Christian nation. According to Pew Research Center, only 65% of American adults describe themselves as Christians when asked about their religion, down 12 percentage points over the past decade.
About 26% of Americans describe their religious identity as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular,” up by 9% since 2009. This means about 85.3 million people in the U.S. do not affiliate with a religion.
Besides the decline of Christianity, a nation founded on valuing a secular government should not be endorsing a deity of any kind in its official national motto.
Instead, we should be using our original de facto motto, “E pluribus unum,” which is Latin for “out of many, one.” This motto was put on the Great Seal by the Founding Fathers. Or, come up with a new one altogether.
I also strongly believe the phrase “under God” should be taken out of the Pledge of Allegiance.
According to USHistory.org, the Pledge of Allegiance was written in 1892 by a socialist minister named Francis Bellamy.
Originally, the pledge didn’t have “under God” in it. It wasn’t until 1954 that President Eisenhower encouraged Congress to add “under God” to the pledge, an obvious violation of religious freedom.
While no one is forced to say the pledge, it doesn’t make sense for a part of it to be directly citing God, a deity many people in the U.S. don’t believe in.
On top of that, having God in the pledge directly infringes on the Bill of Rights.
In the very first amendment, the Bill of Rights states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
Putting God in the pledge is prohibiting the free exercise of religion.
The unwilling indoctrination of children into a religion should not be taxpayer-funded, meaning prayer and religious religious rituals should definitely be kept out of public schools.
Children and their families can practice whatever they’d like in private schools and at home, but following a religion should not be part of what public schools teach.
Political campaigns and religion
Politicians should not make their religion one of their main campaign themes to encourage people to vote for them.
Instead, they should prove they are ethical through their policies and what they plan to do for the country.
Politicians can, of course, draw upon their religion for guidance, but gaining votes through claiming to be a part of a religion is an exploitation of people’s religions and beliefs.
Religious symbols on government property
In addition to these things, religious symbolism should not be displayed on government property.
With the exception of someone’s private office, any symbolism of religion on government property violates the first amendment.
If any religious symbolism is displayed, then symbolism from all other religions should be displayed as well. If this is not the case, then it is discriminatory.
What if it weren’t Judeo-Christianity?
If anyone objects to the principle of separation of church and state, I ask you, would you be okay with your tax money being funneled into a religion you are not a part of?
Your child being taught a religion that you don’t believe in public school?
How about religious symbolism from a religion you oppose on government property?
It is easy to turn a blind eye, or even support it, when a religion that is being funded by the government is a religion you’re a part of.
The church and state should not coincide with each other. Politicians shouldn’t be endorsing churches and vice versa.
Taxpayer money should absolutely not be given to any religious organization, and if the church expects bailouts then they need to start contributing taxes.
According to the Bill of Rights Institute, Thomas Jefferson, a Founding Father, writer of the Declaration of Independence and third president of the U.S., wrote in a letter to a Baptist Church:
“I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.”