Honorable mention: Grad student essay contest — Andrew Young 

Andrew Young

Abortion: A gateway to religion

By Andrew Young 

Political debates have become a mainstay of the election process in America. Whether it be a state representative, congressional representative or the president, the debates are essential to success on the campaign trail. These debates cover important topics such as economic and fiscal plans, foreign policy and gun violence. While there are definitely partisan divides on these subjects, there is one topic that seems to split the parties more than any other: abortion.

A woman’s right to make that decision has been one of the most hotly contested political topics for the last 50 years. The two sides come down to fundamental disagreements that call on people’s religious upbringings. Is abortion murder? Some Christian candidates state that it violates the sixth commandment — thou shall not murder — and more liberal candidates will say a woman has a right to choose. This is how candidates are able to bring their religious views into debates and make religion political. While Republicans are majority Christian, there is a mix of religions on both sides of the aisle and both parties are guilty of pandering to the audience’s religious preference. When religion is brought into these debates, the tone shifts from intellectual to emotional. Candidates are no longer speaking about facts, but rather belief systems that they take as fact. When candidates take a stance on a religious topic it is often to pander to a specific group that they need to win.

There is a large Christian majority that will not vote for someone who is pro-abortion, so those candidates must establish that they are anti-abortion to even stay in the running. They are not focusing on issues that matter because they need to satisfy their constituents’ expectations, even if it not what they believe. The inclusion of religion in politics creates an environment where candidates need to establish where they stand on hotly contested issues that are derived from political believes.

This need to win over a large base of voters comprises the entire purpose of political debates. From the first televised debate in 1960 to the current election cycle, debates are used to focus on the candidate’s policies. These debates should give us, the voters, insight into what our candidate’s goals are, their plan to achieve them, and how they are going to help us. This can all be done without the inclusion of religion.

When religion is included in political debates, it comprises this objective and can be detrimental to society. The candidates spend time talking about religion and not about their policies, which is what affects most voters and creates this ideal of “right” and “wrong” religions. Look at Donald Trump’s rhetoric for the past four years. He has directly stated that Islam is the enemy and indirectly stated that Christianity is correct. This presents a danger to all Islamic Americans who have done nothing wrong, but the militarized Christianity has decided they are public enemy number one. This was taken to extremes when Trump passed his Muslim ban, preventing thousands of people from entering or exiting the country for almost no reason. The religious prejudice has invaded the political sphere and has had an extreme impact on marginalized groups.

When public officials speak about religion, whether it be in debates or rallies, they have alternative motives. They are appealing to groups they feel they must appease to get elected and may not be representative of their policies. We should vote for candidates based on their policies, not based on the religion they are born into. These religious prejudices and biases also have no place in politics because they almost always imply that there is a correct and incorrect side to the bible. This creates resentment against an often already marginalized group in society and puts them in danger.

Religion can be valuable as a belief system, but when running to be a public official it has no business in arguments. The inclusion of religion in politics causes a degradation of our democracy and makes candidates seem one-dimensional where religion is their only characteristic. Mark Twain said, “Very often, in matters concerning religion and politics, a man’s reasoning power are not above the monkey’s.” That still applies today. Our country will be better when religion is not included in an environment dictated by facts.

 

Andrew, 22, is from Bolingbrook, Ill., and attends the University of Denver. “I am passionate about accounting and have had a few internships that have only confirmed this belief. My career goal is to pass the CPA exam in Colorado, practice for a few years and then to begin teaching accounting in a university in Colorado. I want to give back to education and influence young people to think freely about all ideas in life.”