You’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times, and it echoes throughout social and political spheres across the globe. It’s simple mathematics when you break it down really, so follow along: Religion + Government = Disaster.
Though the Greater Cincinnati area has a large population of Catholics, at Northern Kentucky University, the only faith-based building on-campus is the Baptist Student Union.
That is perfectly fine, as many good people supporting their humanitarian cause have worked hard and met remarkable goals for the BSU to be a part of campus (also of note, there are many other religious centers extremely close to campus, though not actually on campus). This will soon change, however, as campus coordinators plan on using the old bookstore space on the ground level of the University Center as an Interfaith religious center. Shouldn’t that cause a ruckus? An expanding, government sponsored academic institution giving up possible classroom space in the name of religion? Well, maybe not.
Let’s keep in mind that the religious spectrums of our towns, cities, states, countries and even continents vary so greatly, it’s difficult to keep track of all the different denominations and beliefs. Whatever religion is and means to you, even if it means nothing, chances are you’ll have trouble finding someone around you with identical religious beliefs on issues.
As totaled by a U.S. Government Census in 2001, which used self-reporting telephone interviews to gather its statistics, there are 50 million Catholics in America, 50 million Baptists, 33 million non-denominational Protestants, 14 million Lutherans, 14 million Presbyterians, 3 million Episcopalians and 2.7 million Mormons, just to name a few.
So with such a varied melting pot, how does America seek to abstain becoming like Palestine or Northern Ireland, where religious strife unhinges the basic functionality and freedoms of everyday life for many citizens?
Before President George W. Bush, American church and state seemed to be two separate entities.
Now, we’re so mixed up that the idea of creationism is being force-fed in some public schools as equal to unbiased natural science, and hell-fire and brimstone warnings ring louder than common sense and reason in the legal and governmental decision making process. Take, for example Cobb County, Georgia’s landmark case on creationism in text books, where parents and activist groups wanted “and on the seventh day, God rested” in science textbooks.
Lucky for us, we’ve got Bush and nearly every Southern Baptist watching our nation’s back. Otherwise, we’d probably be in a real mess. For anyone interested in creationism as curriculum, I recommend watching classic film “Inherit the Wind” or seeing Penn ‘ Teller’s episode on creationism.
By opening an Interfaith Center, the exposure of varying religious ideals and lifestyles on campus becomes more commonplace, humanitarianism is being stressed instead of one, specific religion and abundant learning opportunities are being created (which, after all, is what college is all about).
All valid religious groups are entitled to use the space, so is there really a problem with the separation of church and state? The principle behind this decision is golden, as administration could have easily chosen alternative uses for the newfound space. Yet, it chose to face adversity for a more student-oriented campus.
As a political science graduate, it was always my feeling that the intentions of the “separation of church and state” was not to de-emphasize religion.
It was to make sure that a combination of church and government didn’t become so powerful that it could use its combined influence to dominate the laws of an entire social order.
If you’d look closely at the current state of American politics, wouldn’t that sound ironic, or at least oddly familiar?