The first amendment of the constitution of the United States of America states “Congress shall make no law, respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. This law has given the United States of America the status of a secular state since 1791, meaning that its states have to be official neutral in matters of religion. However, many factors strongly contradict its values; Especially in the 20th century, where there have been many cases where citizens weren’t treated equally regardless of religion. In effect, Jefferson’s “wall of separation” as a metaphor for the separation of church and state promotes free exercise of religion yet its concept has proven to be difficult because the USA governs with a Federal system and today, there is 900 different denominations in the country. The establishment clause hasn’t been equally respected within the states of the country; for example, the constitution of Arkansas states “ No person who denies the being of God shall hold any office in the civil departments of this state, nor be competent to testify as a witness in any court”, this heavily contradicts the USA’s secularity. It has always been a very difficult task for the country to separate religion and government; how has religion played a major role in American culture and politics since the beginning of the 20th century?
From the colonial period through the current day, European visitors to the United States have commented on the powerful current of religiousness that appears to affect all aspects of American life. Surveys of American opinion document that religious belief is widespread: nearly all Americans profess a belief in God, anticipate an afterlife, and report that religion is important in their lives. In 2010, the Pew Research Center published a pie-graph illustrating religious denominations among people in the United States of America. The graph gives us a clear understanding of the religious pluralism of the country. Among the many religious belief systems co-existing in the American society, we can see a domination of the Christian religion, with an average of 80 % of the people living in America. Also, there are many other religious beliefs in the country such as Buddhism, Judaism etc. This document shows that religion is a very important factor of the image on the United States of America. Effectively, the American Dollar, the world’s currency, proudly states “In God we trust”. This is one of the many factors contradicting the establishment of religion clause. The constitution of the United States of America clearly states that religion should not interfere with the government because if it does, it will show a clear preference of the government, eventually contradicting free exercise. However religious beliefs have always had an impact politically on the country. Absence of state religion does not guarantee that a state is secular state; many people believe that the USA is a Christian State. This belief is understanding because many elements contradict the secularity of the country, for example, the congress and state congresses, one of the main institutions in the heart of American politics, have to begin with a prayer, children in publics schools begin the day by swearing allegiance to “One nation under God” and most importantly, elected officials have to swear an oath on a Christian Bible. Also, the recent presidential candidate Mitt Romney attracted many of his voters because he himself is a deeply religious man, an alleged Mormon. Consequently, electoral statistics of 2012 demonstrated an interesting pattern: most religious states, usually situated in inner America, voted for candidate Mitt Romney. These aspects among many others show that religion does have an impact culturally and politically in the United States of America.
The extract for Time Magazine titled “Are we sliding backward on teaching evolution?” published in April 2012 shows that the Scopes trial is...
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