Some of my coworkers are perplexed over the news that a Hindu will be allowed to offer the opening prayer in the US Senate on July 12. When asked my opinion, I simply replied, “If a Christian can pray in front of the Senate, then a Hindu should be able to.” I know at least one of those asking my opinion believes that this is a Christian nation and that only Christian prayers should be allowed in government proceedings. I disagree; I don’t think public prayer should be allowed in the Senate, no matter which religion it celebrates.
I’ve long been a proponent of separating church and state. I don’t believe in prayer in schools (although a moment of silence is acceptable), I think “In God We Trust” should be removed from our currency and that religion should never be invoked during government ceremonies. I do not believe that court houses should be allowed to post the 10 Commandments on their lawns or that state-funded schools should hang them on the wall. It’s a no-brainer, really.
This country may have been founded on Christian principles (which is still debated), but this is now a democracy, not a theocracy, and the government has no right to endorse or shove any form of religion or belief in a higher power down any citizen’s throat. The Bible makes it clear that religion is a personal choice and a personal matter. Jesus even criticized praying in public, telling us to enter into our closets to pray and to refrain from using too many words.
And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.
But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.
Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
– Matthew 6:5-7
Allowing the government to endorse or promote any religion is dangerous and this is evident in many countries around the world. It becomes impossible for a person to make a personal decision about which religion he wants to practice, or even if he wants to be a believer, when the government forces him to abide by the teachings and practices of a specific dogma. Sexuality and modes of dress no longer become ways of expressing one’s identity, but can become tools of oppression with dire consequences for those that do not comply.
As our citizenship becomes more diverse in its religions practices, it would seem that the proper course of action would be less religion in politics, not more. While my opinion on this subject may not be entirely popular in a country that still embraces its religious heritage, I do believe that Americans are finally beginning to understand that there are dangers in the marriage of church and state. If we truly respect our religious freedom, we should remove religion from our government offices and institutions and keep it in the sanctuary.