The new presidency has caused quite a stir in the media. It was certain there would be no lack of topics to cover with George W. Bush as president. In recent weeks, the role of government in religion has become the ‘hot’ topic, causing quite a stir.
Bush’s involvement with religion has become controversial ever since a campaign visit to Bob Jones University. A visit widely publicized because of the University’s strict conservatism, which in the past included a ban on interracial dating. The visit to Bob Jones started a trend of controversy over religion and its association with George W. Bush.
Although he received only eight Democratic votes, Senator John Ashcroft was confirmed as Attorney General. His highly conservative outlook made him a contentious candidate for the position. A religious man, Ashcroft has been quoted as saying, “In America we have no king but Jesus,” at a commencement address at Bob Jones University in 1999.
In relation to Bush’s visit to Bob Jones University and Ashcrofts’ appointment lies a deeper issue. The true issue that has recently emerged is the role of religion and the part it plays in social services. Bush has decided to provide more government help to the disabled, which has been seen as a measure taken to appease Democrats upset over the appointment of Ashcroft. While this action is much needed, as part of this program government funds would also be provided to religious groups, such as churches, synagogues, and mosques.
Unfortunately, with this plan Bush has obviously minimized the gap between the Church and the State. This is something that can never be seen as beneficial to our nation when the basic foundation for this country is one in which religion would not play a role in government. However, at the inauguration Jesus’ name was used in prayer.
It’s easy to say that religion and government should not mix; however, there are some well-founded reasons for this. Bush has met with leaders of various religions and has stated that he wants religious institutions to be more accessible to the American public.
Whether all religious institutions will get equal funding is questionable. In the United States, Christianity and Judaism are the major religions and there are considerably fewer mosques and places of worship for minority religions. Bush feels that there should no longer be discrimination by the government against organizations merely because they are religious. However, in the United States, it is hard to find discrimination against religious groups. The Catholic Church is tax exempt, meaning that the American public in essence makes up for the taxes the Church doesn’t pay.
While Bush says he doesn’t feel proselytizing should be part of new government funding for services provided by religious groups, this is what will most likely end up happening.
Also, for those who are agnostic, atheist, or who do not practice organized religion, Bush’s new plan may be seen as a statement of government’s new ties with religion.
Bush has said, “We do not prescribe any prayer, we welcome all prayers.” While there is a need for government to be involved in education, social security, health care, and other such issues, religion is where government needs to step aside. Government should not be `welcoming,'” let alone funding “prayer.”