The First Amendment contains an apparent oxymoron: religious freedom is to be protected and there must be separation of church and state. Understandably, this can lead to erroneous interpretation, but one would expect the attorney general of the United States to know that the government’s laws derive from the Constitution, not the Bible.
Recently, the First and Second Amendments have been the focus of public outcry on issues such as freedom of speech, the right to bear arms, and religious freedom, and while the Constitution provides a foundation for laws and rights of citizens in this country, it is a 231-year-old document that requires interpretation according to the changing times. Some things, however, remain constant, and one of those is separation of church and state.
The First Amendment says that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …,” which simultaneously ensures the protection of inhibited religious practice in this country as well as a distinct separation of the government from religion.
Therefore, it is absurd to claim that the United States is a Christian country just as it would be absurd to claim we live in a nation dedicated to any other world religion. To claim so would be to deny the foundational beliefs this country was built on: the United States of America is a nation where people of all beliefs, religions, ethnicities, backgrounds, and even nationalities can live, work, and prosper together.
As soon as religion becomes a basis for governmental action or policy-making, not only does this violate the First Amendment, but it jeopardizes the essence of who we are as a country.
Recently, the Trump administration issued a policy separating immigrant children from families who cross the border hoping to escape inhumane and violent conditions in countries such as Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Attorney General Jeff Sessions defended this policy citing the Bible. To make matters worse, he quoted Romans 13.
“I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order. Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves and protect the weak and lawful,” Sessions said, according to USA Today.
The full Romans 13 quote reads as follows: “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”
Not only is citing a Biblical passage unconstitutional, but there are also major red flags with this particular passage Sessions chose to use as a defense for the Republican’s new immigration policy.
Strict adherence to Romans 13 basically gives the government unlimited power and forces the people to act as blind followers in the name of divine authority.
In fact, Romans 13 has been used in the past to justify other atrocities, such as slavery and white supremacist agenda. The fact that the attorney general of the United States is using this Bible passage to wipe the Trump administration’s hands free of any wrongdoing is extremely alarming. Even more frightening is the fact that many people blindly worship whatever Trump and his corrupt administration say as gospel, which points to a disturbing trend away from facts, logic, and democracy toward chaos and totalitarianism.
Religion is not synonymous with morality, so to claim that religion has no place in government is not a renunciation of moral values. Rather, it is the only way to maintain a balanced, neutral, bi-partisan nation based on laws dedicated to freedom and justice for all. Otherwise, what’s to stop the government from doing whatever the hell it wants?