As a Catholic social conservative, my ideological opponents often accuse me of “forcing my religious views on others.” Of course, my opponents are wrong, since I don’t seek to make Catholic teachings the laws of the land. After all, according to the First Amendment such an imposition would be unconstitutional.
However, my opponents’ charge does contain an element of truth. I seek to impose my political views, which my religion helps shape, on others through legal means. This inclination is common, since most people involved with American politics seek to impose their political views on others.
Different factors help shape everyone’s political views. For instance, some people’s views are influenced by their love of the environment, their childhood experiences, historical figures they admire, and even celebrities. Religion is just one of many factors that affect one’s political views.
Some of my opponents argue that the First Amendment prohibits any religious influence on government. However, the First Amendment states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The First Amendment prohibits the establishment of a government religion and protects individuals’ liberty to practice and profess their religion. The First Amendment does not say that the government must exclude religious influences from the political sphere.
Of course religious principles will have some influence on the formation of law, since law is largely an extension of societal morality. Many laws are expressions of moral principles. For example, laws against assault and murder are based in part upon the moral principle that residents must respect the lives of their fellow citizens.
The opportunity to express one’s political views regardless of which factors, such as religion, helped shape these views is a feature of America’s political system. I believe in a society that supports the right to life, a definition of marriage that encourages the formation of families, and an economic system that promotes free enterprise and personal charity towards the disadvantaged. I work diligently to persuade my fellow citizens to help express my political views in laws.
However, I wouldn’t seek to pass a law against, say, abortion just because God or my Church commands that abortion is immoral. I support pro-life laws primarily to protect the right to life, and my pro-life views are shaped by my belief in basic human rights, the need for societal self-preservation, my religion, and other factors.
My ideological opponents may get outraged that religion influences my political views and that other individuals’ religion may influence American law. But these opponents should note that my views are shaped by many factors besides my religion. At the very least, these opponents should be aware that their irreligion influences their political views.