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American Politics

How do you approach the disputes about secularism in the United States and evaluate it within the framework of the establishment of clause the First Amendment of the U.S constitution.  

Just like the first day, British breach of the civic rights was recalled in the memories. In order to own inviolableness of citizens, they asked for Bill of Rights. A number of state agreements in their official approval of the Constitution demanded such articles. First Congress of the United States offered articles for a new constitution, which is called Bill of Rights (Labunski, 2006). The recommended amendments secured the rights of individuals, and were delicate for the designing of democratic rule:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” (Mauck, 2006).

The first piece of the amendment is called as the Establishment Clause, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”, second part is Free exercise Clause, “prohibiting the free exercise thereof”, and third section of the first amendment is known as Free Speech Clause, “abridging the freedom of speech” (Labunski, 2006). At an absolute minimum, there was an attempt to avoid federal government from both stating and monetarily favoring an official religion. This amendment not only prohibits executive function from creating a national religion, but also forbids government practices that unjustly support one religion over another. It is also far less clear there is unavoidably strain among these two clauses. If the federal government behaves to support prayer at formal functions, it will explicitly forge worshipper as a formal declaration of the government. Constitution’s direct words reflect that when the federal government declares official faith, religious emancipation of everyone gets closer to the suppression. On the other hand, to settle whether practice of state government assault on the freedom of religion as an individual right, what characterizes religion and spiritual practices have to be identified by the court (Bardes et al., 2008). From the perspective of the Supreme Court, honest, and soulful faith, which happens in the life of its owner an area similar to the place of God in the lifespan of other persons. The religious terms require not comprise belief in the entity of God. Leading with Gitlow v. New York, enforcement of the First Amendment was begun by the Supreme Court.

As core understandings, Free Speech Clause was identified and rendered to preclude American governments from oppression religious oration (Greens and Stabler, 2015). Additionally, the Court announced that the government has not to isolate religious societies and persons from government efficacy owing to their religious posture. Which was also accepted by Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and Thomas Paine with the emphasis on the features of pluralistic democracy (Greens and Stabler, 2015; Bellamy, 2002, p. 60).

People have seen a far wider inference in the clause indicate to contribution of Thomas Jefferson proposing the requirement to form “a wall of separation between church and state” (Dreisbach, 2002), which has been still supported as the keystone of freedom of religion, and the right of free choice country-wide. In 1785, James Madison supported aforementioned phenomenon by stating “the religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man” (Bellamy, 2002). This right is in its nature an unalienable right (Madison, 1828). Erected wall has to be dominant in the system. Civic morality which has to be secular ethics and has to be driven from needs of all instead of sacred motto. Hence, proposal for tolerating intentional prayer and Bible reading in the state run schools are frequently countervailed that these kind of implications break the “wall of separation between church and state” tenet. This teaching originated from the U.S Supreme Court’s 1947 decision of Everson v. Board of Education (Schwartz, 1996). The clear message from the case of Everson v. Board of Education is:

“The ‘establishment of religion’ clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws that aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion to another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect a wall of separation between Church and State” (Green, 2009).

Another most discussed topic in secularism is the Pledge of Allegiance. Senate favored the addition of ‘‘Under God’’ in 2002, which displays the hundred and eighty degree inversion of the Establishment Clause (Camejo, 2003).

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all” (Nobleman, 2003).

When it is examined, seeing the conflict with first amendment would be really easy. Mentioning God in the Pledge of Allegiance makes 14% Atheist Americans offended (Lagauche, 2003). Additionally, Jews and today Muslims have suffered from religious discrimination as well (Aslan and Tapper, 2011). This reminded author, discrimination of whites against blacks, minorities, and women by using religious text book as an explanation. Just as this implication was unconstitutional, noticing God, and creating religion is extra-constitutional. On the one hand, many people in the United States ideally support freedom of religion, and diversity, to be more specific some fundamental religious groups are fighting  to put religion into the federal government. There would be no mistake in the result of its mix implication of government and religion that religious freedom will be a myth. In that sense, the Pledge of Allegiance can also be evaluated as a heavily idealistic (Mauck, 2006). This should be considered in the way that justice and liberty for all consist injustice and discrimination. Therefore, the Pledge of Allegiance is still a divisive matter among Americans.

Christian coalition and 700 Club head Pat Robertson, who generally supports Conservative Christian ideals speaks with a single voice and claimed that  “There is nothing in the US constitution that sanctifies the separation of church and state” (Boston, 1996). As such argument escalated to the debate among Americans, while Robert Simonds, Jerry Falwell, and Dennis James Kennedy reprimanded the wall of separation (Mauck, 2006). They, in some cases, went further and asserted that such a wall have not been existed. Their main objective was reached compulsive religious belief, and legislated religious adaptation. Yet, this is the fact that their wish would not establish honest religious belief among people. This kind of practice would only be considered as a coercion. It is reasonably clear that the codification and identification of God cannot be achieved by American government in a sense  that no one will reject. From the citizen’s windows, Americans have positive, and inalienable rights. They can discuss their relations, responsibilities, achievements, and faults with God, but to come to that stage, they do not need the government’s stamp of consent.

When dates come to 2008 and 2012, Democratic Party Platform notes a great belief that the American nation, citizens’ lives, and communities were made very wealthy and powerful by religion. Simultaneously, they guaranteed that this notion will not damage the First Amendment. Their aim is increasing promotion of religious liberty. To boot, they take a mission of prohibiting racial, and religious profiles and their practices, whereas Republican Party Platform seems to be similar the Platform of Democrats. They backed application of religious values without imposing government suppress, while they secured free implication of spiritual beliefs. In the light of these affirmations, it can be right to remark that the First Amendment is reinforced  by Republicans. They have reasonably sponsored the opposite side of symbols such as anti-Semitism. As it is seen, in some specific conditions, there was a attained balance between two major political parties of the United States, however this harmony could be violated by judicial decisions.

Green Party of the United States also strengthens religious freedom by consisting non-believers (Camejo, 2006). It is rationally apparent that in order to reach such a condition, they rather favor keeping the separation of church and state. It can be nicely expressed with this contribution that if people want to stay free with liberty, and justice for all, their faith has to be remained as their private project.

American Civil Liberty Union and radical anti-Christian groups have widespread supported religious liberty apprehension in these days. They strived to affect government, store court case, and influence the process in separation of church and state. Leftist agenda topics on Americans desired to be successful on the free practices and choice of the religion without government interference. Yet unfortunately, attempts were stabbed in the back by judicial decisions one more time.

Reconciliation between religion and politics has never been simple. From referring the Creator in the oath of loyalty  to worshipper in the schools as well as a matter of politics and faith tartly split Americans.

As Kent Greenawalt (2008) has mentioned the issue of vouchers became the most significant topic of 2000 elections in the United States, which is closely relevant to religion. Administration of the Court examined the cost of vouchers, and other types of assisting in private religious schools, and leave the final of it to the American government in line with the organic law of states, and political willpower whether bill and other sorts of financial support ought to be given to parents for discharging tuition at private schools regardless of being secular or religious. Yet, in the American system was designed that religious beliefs should be voluntary and state government should be neutral. As it is seen in that case, the application of the Establishment Clause can be contradictive with the decision of the Court.

In conclusion, religious liberty is one of the major keynotes upon which American practice of government is relied, and yet religious liberty is under attack. Sometimes, government bodies, and agencies deal with religious liberty as a retardation instead of as significant value to protect, but as far as it is seen, when Democratic Party as well as Republican Party creates balance and back freedom of religion in a pluralist system of the United States, decision of Court establishes debate about secularism. The violation of one right will attend as a precedent for the violation of other rights. For this reason, individuals of all religion should be alarmed much more than before about the attack on freedom of religion, religious expression, and its implication.

Didem Soykök, Marmara University Political Science and International Relations 2015 Alumni, The University of Buckingham 2015/2016 MSc. International Management Student 
About Author; Didem Soykok is MSc. International Management student at the University of Buckingham, and 2015 alumni of Marmara University Political Science Faculty. She is part of Harvard Kennedy School, European Club. When she was an Erasmus Exchange student at the University of Salford, Manchester, she devoted herself on Intelligence and Security Studies.  She is passionate about peace-building as well as humanitarian assistance, and made presentations about “Ghouta Chemical Attack in Syria” under IRC. She actively engaged in the debates through the university of the Salford Debating Team. She  is driven by the search of encounter new challenges at the university. She has the desire and skill to achieve and strive for brilliance in every division in life.

In 2013, she started working as an internee at an internationally known maritime company called Aksoy Marine, which provided her practice to adjust international shipping, and market environment. Mr. Aksoy offered position relevant to the brokerage account, finance, planning, and controls & distributions. It was a totally great experience that she found the opportunity to work with the Spanish  company (EMS Ship Supply).

Her extracurricular activities are also in line with her field of interest. For instance, participating FTL Academy training seminar on Entrepreneurship, Sales and Marketing Techniques helped her to learn how the management relies on different technologies, and how marketing is linked to the material requirements of society. Apart from these, taking part in Marmara University International Relations Club as being a group leader of “Current Issues in Turkey” as well as participating Rocket World Project of International Society as a leader in Manchester enabled her to utilize skills in technology, warfare,  strategy, and Asia-Pacific security.


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Bardes, B., Shelley, M. and Schmidt, S. (2008). American government and politics today: The essentials. Belmont: Cengage Learning, Inc.

Bellamy, R. (2002). Liberalism and Pluralism: Towards a politics of compromise. London: Routledge.

Boston, R. (1996). The most dangerous man in America?: Pat Robertson and the rise of the Christian coalition. New York: Prometheus Books.

Camejo, P. M. (2003). Defend religious freedom: Drop ‘Under God’ from the Pledge of Allegiance. San Francisco Chronicle, 23 October [Online]. Available at: http://www.commondreams.org/scriptfiles/views03/1023-10.htm (Accessed: 1 August 2016)

Dreisbach, D. L. (2002). Thomas Jefferson and the wall of separation between church and state. New York: New York University Press.

Green, W. S. (2009). Religion and society. In  Jacob Nausner (ed.), World Religions in America: An Introduction. Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, pp. 412-420.

Greenawalt, K. (2008). Religion and the constitution: establishment and fairness. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Greens, M. S. and Stabler, S. L. (2015). Ideas and movements that shaped America: From the Bill of Rights to Occupy Wallstreet. California: ABC-CLIO, LLC.

Labunski, R. (2006). James Madison and the struggle for the Bill of Rights. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Lagauche, M. (2003). Sit down and shut up. Atheist Coalition of San Diago, 28 November [Online]. Available at: http://atheistcoalition.org/docs/sitdown.html (Accessed: 2 August 2016)

Madison, J. (1828). Memorial and remonstrance against religious assessments. Washington City: S.C. Ustick.

Mauck, J. M. (2006). In God we trust: How the supreme court’s first amendment decisions affect organized religion. Michigan: Kathryn Page Camp.

Nobleman, M. T. (2003). The pledge of allegiance. Minnesota: Capstone Press.

Schwartz, B. (1996). Decision: How the supreme court decides cases. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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