The concept of religion can be ambiguous when you consider how much it varies from person to person. For some, being a religious person is defined by how often you go to church, if you get baptized, if you pray to God or a God; to me it is defined by how you use the love your religion allows you to give to others. Unfortunately, rthe religion has too often become a pawn in the game of the political battlefield.
For example, a major problem in the country is that only 54.6% of the American population is fully vaccinated. to September 19, according to Centers for Disaster Control and Prevention. A survey found 40% of evangelical Christians said they weren’t likely to get the vaccine, ever. Religion should not be an obstacle to vaccination.
When it comes to the medical freedom that all citizens of this country deserve, unfortunately, being unvaccinated is not their exclusive concern. Something evangelical Christians can strive to keep in mind is that instead of practicing a “love your neighbor” mentality, they are endangering those around them by not receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Although COVID-19 vaccinations have been very effective, if an unvaccinated person contracts the disease and passes it on to a vaccinated individual, it remains risk for them to be infected.
People citing religion as a means of political or medical intervention are not exclusive to COVID-19 and nothing new to our country. Recently the Supreme Court upheld a new Texas law ban most abortions as well as punishing anyone who may be involved in performing or knowing about an abortion.
The pro-life versus pro-choice conversations we see amid debates over abortion law follow a common pattern. Many pro-lifers tend to refer to their religion as a way of arguing that abortion is prohibited and should be illegal in most, if not all, cases. A survey by the Pew Research Center looking for links between strong religious affiliation and anti-abortion views found that 73% of those who believed in abortion should be illegal in most or all cases also claimed to be absolutely certain that they believed in God.
The reason this argument falls short is that someone who invokes their religion to impose bodily autonomy on another is a serious overstepping of bounds. Controlling a person’s decision whether or not to bear a child should be a decision left to the mother. In case of high risk pregnancy, rape, incest, extreme poverty or any other matter, no one should be forced into childbirth.
Another time we see an overbreadth of religion concerns the rights of the LGBTQ + community. Same-sex marriage was legalized in the USA. June 26, 2015. It was a monumental step in the right direction, however, the struggles of this community do not begin and end with marriage. Religion has played a central role in arguments against adoption rights for same-sex couples.
In June 2021, there are still 11 states that allow state-approved adoption and foster care agencies to use religious exemptions to deny same-sex couples adopting a child. There is another 18 states which offer no clear protection for applicants from same-sex couples. Catholic Social Services had filed a lawsuit in the Fulton case against the city of Philadelphia, over whether or not religious exemptions were viable in the adoption process.
It is heartbreaking to find qualified and potential foster parents or foster families facing discrimination from a religion they may not even practice. Religion has no place in a foster care and adoption system that is already treading water to keep children alive and well and find them homes. The Wisconsin foster care system alone has about 7,000 children. In order to take action to fix this system, it is essential that we eliminate personal politics or religious beliefs when considering child welfare, because a family that will love and protect a child deserves the chance.
Religious integrity is respected by allowing people to practice their own religion to any extent they see fit in a way that does not hamper other members of society. As much as you can feel called by God to fight against the advancement of society and to fight for traditionalism, human rights must come first. What someone believes and practices in their daily life and in their home should be so intrinsically important to them that they don’t need to infringe on the rights of others in order to stand up for their own standards.
I urge everyone to practice the most basic tenets of religion, which is loving and accepting each other because we are not divine figures in anyone’s life. There is a balance that can be found between our personal beliefs and the rights of others. As much as we can each think we have the right idea of how someone should be or live, we have no power to impose it on others. Religion is supposed to be a beautiful community that welcomes others. What it is not meant to be is a controlling entity that makes itself known in political politics.
This story was written by Grace Cady. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org