Americans are guaranteed both freedom of religion and the separation of church and state. Where these two issues meet can be a very contentious topic. At what point does ensuring freedom of religion become interfering with it? At what point does separating the government from religion violate peoples’ freedom to practice it? These issues have been debated for centuries, but as minority religions come more and more into prominence in the United States, the issue has become more public. The Republican Party strongly supports freedom of religion. They protect the right of religious institutions to not perform marriages that disagree with their belief systems. Republicans do not support giving immigrants a religious test before allowing them to enter the country, despite polls showing that they tend to have more negative views on Muslims than Democrats do. Overall, Republicans are associated with more religious voters, especially evangelical Protestants. Republican Party Platforms tend to mention religion and faith more often than Democratic Party Platforms, and many Republicans are concerned that Democrats are trying to wage a war on religion and religious freedom.
Republicans and Religious-Based Immigration
While Republicans support freedom of religion and do not believe in religious discrimination, many are concerned by the recent rise of Islamic extremist terrorist attacks within the United States. For this reason, many Republicans support a temporary moratorium on accepting refugees and/or immigrants from countries where Islamic State or Al Qaeda control territory. They only wish to see these limitations in place until these organizations can be defeated and terrorism is no longer an active threat from them.
Overall, Republicans do not support a religious test for those immigrating to the United States. However, while the Islamic State is still a threat, some Republicans support religious testing for refugees fleeing the Middle East. A small percentage of Republicans believe that Christians in the Middle East are less likely to be terrorists and more likely to be actually fleeing persecution than other religions, and therefore should be accepted, whereas they are more hesitant to accept Muslim refugees at this time.
Republicans, Religion, and Social Issues
Republicans strongly oppose financially assisting any country that persecutes Christianity. Rand Paul has described America as a country in a “religious crisis,” stating, “Not a penny should go to any nation that persecutes or kills Christians.” Republicans see many social issues as pertaining to religion, and therefore hold their positions on these issues based on religious texts and principals. On the grounds of reviving religion in America, many Republicans are calling for an end to abortion, an end to gay marriage, and support for Israel. Republicans such as Cruz, Paul, and Jindal have spoken out against the Obama administration’s “war on religion” – the legalizing of gay marriage, continued support of Planned Parenthood, and lack of support for Israel. These principals are ones the country must stand behind, Jindal states, because “The United States of America did not create religious liberty. Religious liberty created the United States of America.” Jindal and others with like mindsets see many social issues as violating their religious freedom because government money is being spent on institutions that violate their religious principals.
The Religious Divide
In 2012, the decades-long battle between Republicans and Democrats seemed to come to a head when the 2012 Democratic Platform entirely excluded the word “God.” Republicans responded by accusing Democrats of waging a “war on religion.” Kent State University political scientist Ryan Classen has studied the growing religious gap between the parties. In an interview with The Washington Post, Classen explained his findings. While most explain the phenomenon through the fact that Christian Right organizations mobilized religious activists on behalf of the Republican Party, which caused a reaction from secure Americans towards the Democratic Party, Classen believes differently.
Classen explains that Republican evangelicals have not mobilized as much as they have simply become a larger part of society. This group has a large birthrate, and a large percentage of children of evangelicals identify as evangelicals as adults. There has also been an increase in the number of evangelicals voting, something that Classen attributes to the fact that larger percentages of children are growing up with proper educations. Therefore, it is quite possible that the “God Gap” has simply been born out of population trends, not out of political actions.
In fact, Classen points out, not all religious people have trended towards the Republican Party. Most religious individuals that are anything except evangelical Protestants have trended towards the Democratic Party. In recent elections, there are Democratic trends in every major religious tradition except for Evangelical Protestants.
Other studies have shown a rise in the number of “religiously unaffiliated” individuals, including atheists, agnostics, and those who don’t have any religious identity. These individuals are far more likely to join the Democratic Party than the Republican, further fueling the religious gap between the parties.
Donald Trump on Religion
Despite the Republican Party’s support of religious freedom, 2016 Presidential hopeful Donald Trump is highly discriminatory in his beliefs. Trump has called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” While most Republicans believe that people of any faith should be allowed to enter the country, as long as they pass other requirements and do not appear to be a threat to national safety, Trump and his supporters disagree. They believe that anyone following the Muslim faith should not only be banned from entering the country, but that those Muslims that are already in America should be forced to leave. This policy does not apply just to immigrants, either. Trump hopes to ban all Muslim tourists from the country as well.
Trump’s fellow Republicans, for the most part, oppose this point of view. Jeb Bush referred to him as “unhinged,” while Ted Cruz simply stated that he did not share Trump’s views. Cruz, however, did call for a moratorium on accepting refugees from countries where Islamic State or Al Qaeda control territory.
- How Democrats Became Secular and Republicans Became Religious (It’s Not What You Think) – The Washington Post
- Most Republicans Have Negative Views of Muslims – and of a Religion Test – FiveThirtyEight
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- Little Sisters of the Poor Is About Obama Restricting Religious Freedoms
- Republican Views on Welfare
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