Leathersich: Faith has no business in governance

On Sunday Nov. 4 U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan – former Gov. Mitt Romney’s running mate – said that President Barack Obama’s path for the nation compromises the “Judeo-Christian values that made us such a great and exceptional nation in the first place.”

Ryan’s use of a religious frame to critique the president is both misguided and, most importantly, irrelevant.

This argument is not about taking issue with religion as a belief system or an institution; it is about the weight it carries for many political figures when deciding what is right for the nation.

For starters, Obama’s religious values should be a moot point in any attack on his plan for America, let alone days before the election. His religion does not impair any vision he has for his citizens. He simply has his beliefs – and they stay separated from any policies he implements. If you have ever taken a course in United States history, that sentence should ring some sort of a bell.

There is a term for that kind of behavior, a term coined by Thomas Jefferson way back when America was in its infancy. This pillar of our nation is aptly named “separation of church and state.”

In other words, the religious beliefs of a political leader should not interfere with the decisions being made regarding policy. It is an ideal that cripples the Republican Party.

It is frustrating on a few levels: that Ryan makes this claim in light of Romney losing steam in the polls, that there are likely people out there that will agree with him and vote Republican and that a political figurehead legitimately uses that claim as grounds against the President.

Arguably, the most important reason our nation exists is to secure the right to religious freedom. It would not matter if Obama were Catholic, Protestant, Atheist or Muslim. Similarly, it does not matter that Romney is Mormon. Any individuals that base their decisions on religious affiliations of politicians are ignorant.

Also, there is something to be said for the fact that certain members of the GOP so adamantly defend the Constitution and yet this idea that we are a “Christian nation” comes up time and time again.

The most notable controversy involving separation of church and state is in the classroom. Should publicly funded schools teach evolution or creationism?

My answer is if you want to know about creationism, go to church. The bipartisan answer is to teach both as long as creationism is expressed in an unbiased manner. It irks me that there have been cases that made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court over this when our forefathers had the foresight to include a clause to settle this.

Another controversy: the placement of “God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. Now this is one that deserves to be overlooked because it is not worth the argument. But going by Jefferson’s recommendation – the separation of church and state – the word “God” should not be included.

I will concede with Ryan only as far as to say the Christian ideals were very much present in colonial America, but after that, religion and politics should be a non-issue.