America is a nation that consists of individuals from many different religions. For instance, there are many thousands of Christians.
According to the 2011 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches, from which members in the United States are combined with Canadian members, and of the National Council of Churches, the five largest denominations are:
- The Catholic Church, 68,503,456 members
- The Southern Baptist Convention, 16,160,088 members
- The United Methodist Church, 7,774,931 members
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6,321,416 members
- The Church of God in Christ, 5,499,875 members
Depending on religious definitions and varying population data, the United States is also home to the largest or second largest (after Israel) Jewish community in the world. In 2012, the American Jewish population was estimated at between 5.5-8 million.
Then, there are the Muslims. A lot of Muslims live in America. In 2005, more people from Islamic countries became legal permanent United States residents — nearly 96,000 — than in any year in the previous two decades.In 2009, more than 115,000 Muslims became legal residents of the United States. Thomas Jefferson defended religious freedom in America including those of Muslims. Jefferson explicitly mentioned Muslims when writing about the movement for religious freedom in Virginia. In his autobiography Jefferson wrote “[When] the [Virginia] bill for establishing religious freedom… was finally passed,… a singular proposition proved that its protection of opinion was meant to be universal. Where the preamble declares that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word ‘Jesus Christ,’ so that it should read ‘a departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion.’
There are also a lot of Americans that do not choose to follow any religious doctrine at all. They are just as American as any other American living in the USA, and are protected under the exact same Constitution. Atheists comprise almost 10% of the world population.
These are only a few of the religions in the USA. There are many others. My point is that in the United States of America, we have a diverse religious culture. Our religious preferences are choices. They are not mandated by the government. This is stated in the Constitution.
The leader of this country, our President, is a Christian. That is his choice. In the United States, freedom of religion is a constitutionally guaranteed right provided in the religion clauses of the First Amendment. Freedom of religion is also closely associated with separation of church and state, a concept advocated by Thomas Jefferson. President Obama was not elected President to exclusively uphold the Christian religion, nor was any President. He was elected President to uphold the Constitution that governs this diverse nation.
Because there are so many different religions in the United States, public schools are banned from mandating religious observances such as prayer. If it were allowed, and our children were lead into prayer, WHICH RELIGION would have the right to dictate that? If you are Muslim, would it be ok with you if your kid was forced to say a Christian prayer? If you are Christian, would you approve if he or she was asked to pray to Allah? This is not an anti-Christian sentiment. It is not an anti-Jewish one. It is common sense. Apart from common sense, the legal basis for this prohibition is the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which requires that:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…
The first part of the above amendment which reads “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” is known as the Establishment Clause, while the second part (“or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”) is known as the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. Though each of these clauses originally applied only to the central US government, the Fourteenth Amendment extended the scope of the entire First Amendment to all levels of government, including the state level—thus compelling states and their subject schools to adopt an equally detached approach to religion in schools. These are not Barack Obama’s personal rules. They are the laws as stated in the Constitution. He was elected to uphold that Constitution, and he is doing a fine job of it.
If your kid wants to pray in school, there is nothing stopping him or her. When little Timmy or Sally opens up that lunch box and sees the delicious lunch that his fathers or mothers or father or mother has prepared for him or her, there is no law that says he or she cannot lift up his heart to God and say, “Thank you!”. If the President of the United States can take time out of his work to pray (which he does daily), then kids can pray whenever they want to as well. They simply cannot be mandated by their school administration to do so because there are so many different religions here.
Both conservative and liberal religious believers who want to see more of their own religion involved in public policies invariably make the argument that only their religion is “legitimate” and “true” while the others are following some sort of “false” or “hijacked” religious faith.In 2007, Barack Obama spoke to the congregation of the United Church of Christ’s Iowa conference. He said:
…somehow, somewhere along the way, faith stopped being used to bring us together and started being used to drive us apart. It got hijacked. Part of it is because the so-called leaders of the Christian right are all too eager to exploit what divides us. …I don’t know what Bible they’re reading. But it didn’t jibe with my version.
I agree with Barack Obama.