What Role Should Religion Play in Government Policies?

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Political Science 1020E
Professor Nigmendra Narain
Term 1 Essay: What role should religion play in government policies?

By Nivedita Sen
Student Number: 250589199
Section – LEC 575
In today’s world, religion plays a profound part in many people’s lives and they find it important to firmly follow the guiding principles of a religion. Religion has been around for many years and although different people have their own definition of what it may be, religion is essentially a personal belief system. An individual’s belief system is the set of principles by which the individual lives his/her daily life and which direct his/her thoughts and actions. One question that arises in today’s society is: What role should religion play in government policies? This essay argues that religion should play no role in government policies because it would affect democracy of the state, influence laws on the basis of religious grounds and cause oppression of minority religions. In this essay, I first put forward 3 arguments on why religion should play no part in government policies and support these arguments with a range of scholarly articles. Next, I present two counter arguments followed by a rebuttal for each. This is followed by my conclusion, which re-states why religion should play no role in government policies.

Religion is a significant factor in determining the quality of a democratic system (Braithewaite 2). Freedom of religion, or generally freedom of ethics, means that one does not need to agree with or acknowledge a religion or belief if it is against his or her wish. Furthermore, one should not be penalized if he or she wishes to follow one religion over the other or no religion at all. In a democratic system, a person's religious faith is an extremely personal subject. Everybody should have the right to follow any religion they desire as long as their religious beliefs are not imposed on others.

The social impact of a religion greatly depends on whether it is supported by the majority or the minority of the population. A religion supported by the majority has a significant effect on government and on societal principles. This majority religion dominates and impacts the government considerably by either controlling the government. In order for a democracy to function, there needs to be complete separation of religion from government.

Addressing the connection between religion and democracy John Adams questioned, “Can a free government possibly exist with religion” (qtd. in Braithewaite 2). Similarly, James Madison asked, “What influence in fact have ecclesiastical establishments had on civil society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of civil society…in no instances have they been seen the guardians of the liberties of the people” (qtd. in Braithewaite 2).

If religion plays a part in influencing government policies, there will one majority religion achieving control over the government. This will result in religiously inspired policies dominating the social dimension and citizen equality being affected. According to Braithwaite, this happens because the size of the majority religious group can influence the society and create individual preferences (Braithewaite 4). This causes the establishment of particular norms and rules about conduct of behaviour on the basis of the preferences of the majority religious group. These norms discriminate against people who do not agree with the beliefs of the majority group (Braithwaite 4). As a result, the democratic system is...
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