Church vs. State: Religion in Public Office

In my Ethics class, we discussed whether religion should be a factor within our public offices. Here is a snippet of the directions along with other supporting evidence to help you form a conclusion yourself. John F. Kennedy argues why “religious views are [an office holder’s] own private affair [and] whose public acts are responsible to all groups and obligated to none […], not limited or conditioned by any religious oath, ritual[,] or obligation.” Compare it with Mike Pence’s acceptance speech as a running mate in which he says, among others, “I’m a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican—in that order!” Question. Who do you think is right on the matter of whether religious beliefs may or must not influence decision making in a public office, JFK or VP Pence, and why?

Note given by my professor: I don’t care what your answer is. I care whether you try to argue for your point. What does it mean to argue for a point? It means that you give someone, who disagrees with you, good reasons to change their mind.

Here is my take on the situation, *Please be aware, this my own opinion:

I believe JFK is right when it comes to decision making and keeping your religious views separate from your daily duties of a government or public office official. As Americans, we go to work every day or every other day and make decisions based on our morals of what is right and what is wrong. We don’t disclose our religion because it shouldn’t be a factor or topic of discussion unless in a private setting with people of same views or with family and friends. As an elected official voted into public office, they’re given a chance to make decisions that are best for the people who have different views.

Which means, that their decision shouldn’t be a one-sided viewpoint, but has a unique representation of the people itself when dealing with public matters. With that being said, when JFK explains that “religious views are [an office holder’s] own private affair…” He basically explains that a public official’s view should be private when dealing with government issues or situations, but still, have some type of mutual understanding when conducting business along with other viewpoints. In the United States, we have “Freedom of Religion,” a powerful right to practice a religion without the hindering of the government.

Photo by Wendy van Zyl from Pexels

If you are like Pence and exclaim that “you are a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican” than you are potentially alienating other groups of people who may have different views and can steer away citizens that may feel left out if their views are not heard or met. With that said, all religions have a basic understanding of “Treat people how you’d like to be treated.” From there, each religion that is either major or minor, new or old have different views on certain stuff and leads to many disagreements if we had officials override their religious views to make government decisions.

This can complicate a decision if one religious view is dominant from the rest which can lead to an ongoing debate. As a public official, expressing that you are of a certain religion can be a turnoff for some and an exciting matter for others of the same religion shared by said elected official. Our government should be able to accommodate and treat their citizens fairly whatever faith they may proclaim. Elected officials should represent us with an open mind and a sensitive heart. Making decisions based on basic morals from each religion that are commonly the same can create a more welcoming and inviting culture when seeing multiple views appreciated and presumed as equal in each other’s eye when dealing with the government and not feeling discriminated or isolated.

Photo by from Pexels

Sadly, we are currently living in a society where everyone is not equal and one major religion is actually dominating our government even though it is supposed to be separate from church and state. If we followed JFK’s model when making decisions, I believe we would live in a more fair environment and be able to form open conclusions instead of a one-sided viewpoint.


Link: Mike Pence’s Speech (Time 1:00)

Link: JFK’s Speech

Featured Image: “Blur Boss” – Photo by from Pexels

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