Support for the Separation of Church and State Should be Part of the Democrats Platform in the 2022 Mid-terms

US RENEW OP ED | May 19, 2022

Header photo taken from: Pew Research Center




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Former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo gave a landmark speech in 1984 saying Catholic politicians who personally opposed abortion, as he did, could rightly support the right of a woman to have an abortion.

Photo taken from: South Bend Tribune

Policy Summary

In the upcoming Congressional elections Democrats should emphasize their commitment to supporting a democratic pluralistic society that respects individual rights, and the principle of separation of church and state, and how not showing support for these values opens the doors for outlawing abortions, banning books and other culture war issues. They need to highlight how many Republicans are backing laws that seek to impose a particular religious point of view on the lives of all Americans..

We are a nation of diverse peoples representing different religious, ethnic, and racial groups. Our Constitution recognizes and give us the ability to worship as we choose, freely express ourselves, and feel that our rights as individuals are protected

The First Amendment Bill of Rights reads “congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion,” and has been referred to as the establishment clause. Though not explicitly stated in the First Amendment, the clause often has been interpreted by the Supreme Court and others to mean that the Constitution requires the separation of church and state.

Recently the separation clause has been threatened by right wing religious extremists whose views are working their way into the political platform and cultural assertions of the Republican party and the Supreme Court. Republican efforts to assert an Evangelical Christian point of view and way of life span many areas. 

The most high profile of these is the anticipated forthcoming Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v Wade and make abortion illegal, denying women the constitutional right to control their own bodies. Other religious right culture war offensives include efforts to have schools ban books and classroom discussions that focus on issues related to sex education, gay and transgender rights, and racial discrimination, and efforts to enforce religious school prayer.

Majorities in all major religions believe in human induced global warming. However, many evangelicals believe our current global warming and climate change are simply part of a natural cycle and not caused by humans.


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Thirty years ago, sociologist James Davison Hunter popularized the concept of culture war. Today, he sees a culture war that’s gotten worse—and that spells trouble for the future of the American experiment.

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Democrats need to push back on this trend by defending the values of a pluralistic democracy and making a defense of separation of church and state a key part of their own platform in the  upcoming Fall elections.

As the late Mario Cuomo said in a speech at Notre Dame University in 1984. “The Catholic who holds political office in a pluralistic democracy — who is elected to serve Jews and Muslims, atheists and Protestants, as well as Catholics — bears special responsibility,” Cuomo said. “He or she undertakes to help create conditions under which all can live with a maximum of dignity and with a reasonable degree of freedom; where everyone who chooses may hold beliefs different from specifically Catholic ones — sometimes contradictory to them; where the laws protect people’s right to divorce, to use birth control and even to choose abortion.”

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