American politics need religious objectivity

By Hayley Devitt

On Jan. 21, when President Barack Obama publicly swore in for his second term, he placed his left hand on two Bibles: one that President Abraham Lincoln used in his own inauguration and one that was owned by Martin Luther King Jr.

While I admired his symbolic choices, they got me thinking about presidential traditions and what they mean to most Americans. To me, they are pleasant and sentimental, but not actually necessary.

Certain inaugural rites, though not required, have come to be expected. Swearing on the Bible is just one of them, and they are great… if you are into that kind of thing.

For Obama, the tradition was to honor the people who have held these books before him and to celebrate America’s progress toward equality.

However, the Bible is a religious object and I wondered if we will someday have a president leave the Christian holy book out.

Contrary to popular belief, we Americans have not exactly had only Christian commanders in chief.

Four U.S. presidents have been Unitarian, a sect which does not believe Christ was divine: John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Millard Fillmore and William Howard Taft.

Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson were not affiliated with any specific denomination, or considered deists, but for the sake of the bigger picture I will call them cultural Christians.

While I could not regret the Christianity of the individuals leading the country in the past, I think America could benefit from a non-Christian leader.

Politics are supposed to be separate from religion, but we have to face it: Christian morals are still at times guiding legislative decisions.

If we were to have a Jewish, Muslim or Hindu president, not only would it be a breath of fresh air for our nation, it would distill in the masses better acceptance and objectivism for America’s under-represented groups. If we are truly equal, there should be a chance for someone of any religion to become president.

On the other hand, with a non-theist leader, we might actually have the separation of church and state, which is promised but lacking.

Think about it. I would rather have someone religiously indifferent running the country than someone putting his or her own beliefs ahead of the good of the people.

I do not think every elected official with a religious affiliation does that, but it would be wrong, for instance, to enable a social injustice simply because the Bible tells him or her so.

I do not say that out of disrespect, but only because laws affect everyone and not everyone reads the Bible. Not everyone shares the same belief system, and even within a college community such as ours it is easy to see that.

In 2006, Representative Keith Ellison in Minnesota became the first Muslim member of Congress and swore in with a Quran.

Earlier this month, religiously unaffiliated Rep. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona took office on a copy of the Constitution.

This only goes to show that diversity will continue to progress and that change is good for us.