Is the United States really becoming a Christian nation?

Both the Christian cross and the American flag are often shown together in this country, and many preach patriotism as they say, “This is a Christian nation.” To say this means to say that each individual inside the U.S. borders would agree with Jesus Christ, which is simply not true in a nation that depends largely on diversity of beliefs. It also means to say that Christ would agree with both the Christian church and with this nation’s policies, which is highly unlikely, but impossible to know for sure.

“In God We Trust” was added to currency after the Civil War and “under God” was included in the Pledge of Allegiance after it was added by Congress in 1954. Is this the direction the Founding Fathers would have encouraged? This is impossible to know for sure.

History’s truth has been spun and rewritten to serve the interpretations of different beliefs so much so, that some say our Founding Fathers were mostly deist, while others claim that the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were based on the Ten Commandments.

Which is true? How much religion actually filters into governmental policies, and how realistic is the promise of a separation between church and state?

“[No elected official should be] limited or conditioned by any religious oath, ritual or obligation,” John F. Kennedy said. Many polls, however, show that Kennedy’s opinion is not entirely shared.

In a survey conducted in 2003 by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, 52 percent said they would be reluctant to vote for an atheist and 38 percent said they would be reluctant to vote for a Muslim.

“I would suspect the real numbers are much higher,” said Jeff Peake, political science professor at the University, said. “In those surveys, people tend to go for the more politically correct answer.”

A favorable appearance for the candidate during the primaries is one of the most important reasons that they are elected. How much does religion affect the appearance of the candidate?

“If you are not Catholic or Protestant, religion is going to be the story,” Peake said. “Just look at [Republican presidential hopeful and member of a Mormon church] Mitt Romney.”

The media is quick to find the religious labels, which then become important, for one reason or another, to the candidates’ identities. Is it more important what Romney thinks about health care or that he is a Mormon? Was it more important what Kennedy thought about civil rights or that he was Roman-Catholic?

“If they discuss issues important to me, religious background is irrelevant,” said Ronald Collier, student at the University.

Another student, Justin Albright said,”They may not believe in what I believe in, but that does not mean they can’t lead our government.”

Once in office, do the newly-elected officials govern based on what is best for the country or do they govern based on their religious beliefs?

The Pew Research Center, in the same survey attributed above, said that religion plays a role in the everyday life of 67 percent of those surveyed. Is this not the same for politicians whose “everyday life” consists of making and enforcing laws that the entire nation must obey?

“A lot of what is said during the campaign isn’t translated into [the candidate’s] policy,” Peake said.

Republicans have to appear more religious during their campaign to appease conservative voters, then once in office, they must compromise this religious appearance with the moderates and liberals in order to get their policy through, Peake said. To the Democrats, religion is less of an issue during their campaign so there is less of this compromise needed after being elected.

Gay marriage, stem-cell research, abortion, censorship, intelligent design versus evolution in schools and many other issues of today’s world bleed over from religion to politics and are disputed on a daily basis. The separation of church and state as defined in the Constitution by America’s founding fathers leaves the door open for different interpretations of what exactly that means. In the end, who has the authority to say that their beliefs are right?