This week, the “A Man of Prayer” event was hosted in Washington, D.C. For some, the title of the event says it all: surely the event, at the very least, is celebrating religion(s) of some sort and attendees are probably religious. If one takes a look at speakers and attendees, she would recognize the names/faces of several senators and congressman, if not by name then by their honorific title. This, in and of itself, doesn’t say much, though some may find their participation as a little less innocuous than others. The fact that the event was held in the U.S. Capitol raises a red flag but maybe not one of a pronounced Crayola marker.
But if you dig a little deeper by watching speeches of some of the event’s speakers, reading the outlined event’s purpose, and knowing the event was streamed live to churches across the country, you may immediately Google “separation of church and state” to ensure that the Establishment Clause was not made unlawful in the few hours since you last checked the news. Of course the issue is not that politicians are religious or that they say as much. After all, they too have the right to freedom of religion and speech. The issue here is that politicians are using their positions to push the agenda of their particular religion. Randy Weber, a Texan congressman demonstrates this in a disturbing “speech,” which is nothing less than a confession on behalf the United States that outlines all of our country’s perceived “sins,” such as not requiring the bible as part of public school students’ curriculum and gay marriage. His confession states that he believes he tried to prevent those “sins” but have failed God, his God, a Christian God. Weber states:
“Lord thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth, here in the halls of congress in our nation’s capital, Lord may your will be done….Lord, I’m confessing several of the sins our nation has been embolden to embark upon…we have endeavored to try to kick your word out of public schools. Father, we have endeavored to take the bible out of classrooms, the Ten Commandments off the walls. Father, forgive us…”
There is not a single mention or allusion to figures, literature, or laws of other religions. He could have mentioned Judaism’s King David or Islam’s prophet Muhammad or Hindu’s Veda, for example. The use of Christian verbiage and the exclusion of all non-Christian verbiage makes it clear that he is does not have an intersectional perspective. It does not bare in mind all religions or any other one religion, for that matter; just the one. So when he says, “…here in the halls of congress in our nation’s capital, Lord may your will be done…”
Furthermore, Speaker of the House of Representative Paul Ryan gave a religious-infused speech that, much like Rep. Weber’s confession, was laden with Christian components, such as scriptures from the New Testament, which, like Rep. Weber, disregards and outcasts other religions practiced in this country. The speech was then, as required, posted on Ryan’s government website. One highlight includes the following:
“But in these days after Easter, we reflect on the power of resurrection…on the ultimate truth that our lives are transformed by our belief in God.”
It’s blatant that these politicians use their political positions as a vehicle to work on behalf of practitioners of their own religion. To do so is to simultaneously impose their specific religious beliefs on those who do not believe in that religion. Put simply, these politicians are not representing the people, as they said they would. They’re representing a particular religious group of people and working to apply those beliefs to all people, regardless of religion.
How is this constitutional? What I really care about is why haven’t they been penalized in some way, if not fired? I do not understand how someone in their role as politicians can use federal government space to publicly broadcast a specific religion’s beliefs is not a clear and direct violation of the Establishment Clause.
In any other professional setting, acts like this, one that goes against and is in violation of the fundamental responsibility of the employee, people are fired or reprimanded in some way. And while politicians have the right to practice whatever faith they believe in and represent their constituents, the law requires they not impose their religion on another. What politicians at the “A Man of Prayer” event demonstrated is akin to a Christian being hired by a Jewish, secular, or Muslim organization to fulfill the requirements of that organizations beliefs but instead the Christian persistent to apply Christian beliefs in an environment that explicitly asked him to do otherwise. The employee’s goal for the job does not match the employers. This contention can be resolved by letting the Christian employee go or by said employee to fulfill the wishes of his employers. Politicians, in fact, have secular role. It is a politician’s job to separate religion and government. Here, we have politicians doing just the opposite. Laws should be passed and advocated for based on logic and not simply because a religious text says it should be passed.
Why do we allow politicians to carry out the needs of one religious group, as if there are not laws in place that prohibit this?
The upside is that not all politicians disregard their right to respect the multitude of religions in this country. Joe Biden had an exemplary response during a 2012 VP debate.
I hope that all schools, public, private, religious, and others, are using this as a current example of how the a government officials can abuse their position for their own benefit.