Sunday, September 18, 2011

Obama and Perry, Speaking “Christianese” during 2012 Presidential Rallies



As the 2012 presidential elections draw near, the pressure is on for the possible candidates. Rallies and tours are in full swing and speeches are being written to appeal to the audiences at hand, even the Christians and Evangelicals. As shown in previous elections, the Evangelical Christian vote is an important crowd to win over, since their approval of a candidate can have a great effect on the votes.

Most recently, Texas governor, Rick Perry, visited Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA, the largest Christian University in the world. Liberty was founded by the late Jerry Falwell, a well known evangelical pastor. With a large group of Liberty student as the audience, Perry spoke openly about his Christian faith and the importance of their vote as Christian teenagers and young adults. He also encouraged the students to become involved in the voting process, since the election not only affected their future but the future of the United States. There, Perry also discussed his decision to become a Christian, during his 20's, and openly explained how he “turned to God” after leaving the Air Force. During his closing remarks, Perry reminded the student that God, “doesn’t require perfect people to execute his perfect plan” which can be found numerous times throughout the Bible.

Another candidate using their Christian faith to win over crowds is current President, Barack Obama. Keeping in mind his aspiration of becoming re-elected, Obama most recently quoted both Psalm 46 and Psalm 30 at “secular” 9/11 memorials in NYC and DC.

In 2007, Obama announced his candidacy for the 2008 presidential race after being welcomed by a Gospel choir. Then, once elected, Obama mentioned “unbelievers” in his inaugural address. During his presidency, Obama was quoted saying, “We are one nation under God, we always have been and always will be” during a televised speech. The president of the United States told the American citizens, on live television, that they were one nation under God.

While these presidential rallies are taking place, where candidates are expressing their religious views, public school teachers are being fired for posting religious banners in their classroom. Does this seem “Constitutional” to you? Just this past week, a public school teacher was forced to take down “religious” posters in his classroom because it could make the students in the classroom feel uncomfortable. But when the President speaks of his religious beliefs on live television he doesn’t make anyone feel uncomfortable?

Why is it that the President of the United States can broadcast a live speech to the American public stating this nation is, “Under God” and a public school teacher cannot wear a cross in the classroom? Better yet, why can a presidential candidate speak to college students about their decision to follow Christ during their 20’s and public school science teachers cannot state that God was possibly the creator of the world?

It is extremely unfair that the President can openly express their religious views in the workplace but a public school teacher cannot. If the government is going to ban religious activity in the public schools, the government officials also need to follow these rules in their workplace.

16 comments:

Elena T said...

I agree with Christy, how is it fair that public speeches given by our political leaders can address God in a positive light and reference their own religious beliefs, when teachers can't. I know we talked about this and how a may be teacher infringing upon a student's beliefs, but it is obvious that these politicians are doing so. In a televised speeches and in open public forums the President of the United States said we are one nation under God, how does that not infringe upon the beliefs of American Citizens?

PamelaR said...

I disagree that it is unconstitutional for presidential candidates to discuss or endorse religion in their campaign speeches. There is no basis in the Religion Clause to suggest that politicians must keep their speeches secular. I don't think the analogy to teachers really works in this situation--public schools are government institutions with limited free speech because children are forced to go to school. The president might represent part of the government, but his speech is not limited any more than any other citizen, and we all can speak about religion in the context that he or other candidates do. Citizens have the ability to show that they don't support the candidate's religious beliefs, or any other beliefs, simply by not voting for them.

Ally R said...

I disagree with Pamela in the aspect that governmental speeches should be allowed to include religion. Those who choose to vote may feel obligated to listen to all speeches in order to make the best decision. Simply by not voting for that candidate does not solve the issue. For example, those non-Christians during the 9/11 memorial when no voting process was even present. They still felt uncomfortable during an event where it had already been decided no religious speakers would partake in the ceremonies. Therefore, by including your religion within the context of a speech, you can make those who go against your religion uncomfortable. Also, how can we expect to separate church and state if those running for presidency are potentially being chosen based on the appeal of their religion to targeted audiences?

Annie M said...

The main problem we discussed in class having to do with teachers expressing their religion by wearing a cross was the fact that children look up to their teachers. Don't adults in the United States look up to the President as someone they elected? The only difference is the age of the audience. I definitely agree that politicans should follow their own rules.

Harry R. said...

I disagree with Christy and feel that the public school issue is very different from the political speeches. All citizens are required by law to go to school in their youth, and they should not be forced to hear religious speeches during this schooling. However, nobody is forced to listen to the political speeches. These speeches are designed to appeal to voters, they are not designed to convert children to a certain religion. This difference is crucial and, while free speech is a constitutional right, that right does not extend in all cases to the supposedly secular classroom.

Sophie K said...

It makes sense that presidential candidates incorporate religion into their campaigns because religion humanizes a president for many people, allowing them to identify on a basic level with an incredibly powerful man. However, I think it is hypocritical but not unconstitutional that presidents discuss their religion in their speeches. Presidents are still subject to the same rule of law that teachers are, and therefore should attempt to veer away from discussing their religious beliefs publicly. On the other hand, citizens are not required by law to attend political speeches and presidents as well as presidential candidates are entitled to free speech.

Chris R. said...

The question here is not over "fairness" or "hypocrisy." Rather, this is an issue of constitutionality. In responding to these real life examples of our classroom discussions, we need to remember that no one has a constitutional guarantee to not be offended. This country is to be a beacon of individual liberty, as outlined in the constitution, and freedom of speech is guaranteed until it infringes upon the rights of others. No one is required to listen to this speech as children are required to attend school. The analogy between governmental addresses and public school protocol is fundamentally misguided. Each and every one of us has another right that will showcase our feelings about a candidate's decisions in addressing the public: the vote.

Ashley R said...

The analogy between public candidates and public teachers is a poor one. While I think teachers should be allowed to wear a cross, they should not be allowed to display religious posters in their classrooms because the intention is to indoctrinate students. Schools are public institutions and by displaying religious messages on the school property, one can argue that a breach of establishment has been made. Presidential candidates discuss religion not to try to indoctrinate voters but to let voters know more about the candidates. To say that presidential candidates or even POTUS cannot speak about his/her own religious beliefs would violate the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech. To allow politicians to discuss their own religious beliefs does not constitute an establishment of religion mainly because politicians speak as individuals and not for the government itself.

Liz Petrillo said...

I don't really believe that teachers and presidents are relatable on this sort of level, especially when it comes to speech giving. A speech a teacher makes will impact or imprint the way a student learns because unless the teacher is a college professor, students are typically young and take great consideration in to what their teacher preaches/believes in. On the other hand, presidents make speeches for the voting public, which of course are adults eighteen years or older. Therefore, an adult can handle a speech about religion and not be offended by it, or pressured to become part of the religion the speech is being given on. Hanging a cross on a wall in a first-grade classroom and having a presidential speech referring to christianity are completely different issues, and although they have some overlaps, I believe one should be allowed while the other should not be.

Callie B said...

This is clearly a very controversial issue, but ultimately I think it is of the utmost importance to look at the valid points Harry, Sophie and Chris raise. A politician and teacher are both associated with the government, however they have vastly different roles and responsibilities. Teachers are discouraged from presenting their own opinions on controversial issues, as they are supposed to remain neutral educators. Politicians on the other hand, are elected primarily ON their opinions to these controversial situations, thus it seems like common sense that voters should be informed about the ideals and character of the individual who will represent their voice in government. While I wholeheartedly agree that religion is irritatingly overemphasized in campaigns and political rhetoric, there is absolutely no basis to claim that this is an issue of constitutionality.

Mike HJ said...

Politics is a dirty game, where people will, can and must do anything in their power to get re-elected. If I was a politician, I would absolutely appeal to the Christian majority because it is just that -- a majority. Majorities win elections and if my end goal is to be elected, then my means would be to secure the majority vote. Especially in Obama's case, with the rumors that permeated his term over the last few years (those questioning his citizenship, and his relationship with the Muslim faith) I can see why he would want to endorse, or at least seem to endorse, Christian views.

Grace R said...

I disagree with Christy because I believe that public schools and presidential candidacy are entirely different. When voting for a president, you are voting for an individual who you believe best matches your beliefs, and religion plays a role in that decision. However, when going to public school, a child is required to go by law and that child goes to school to be taught specific subjects mandated by the state, not be given personal opinions by the teachers.

BryceS said...

I agree with Christy in that it is unfair to scrutinize the public school systems for the use and display of religion while it is deemed appropriate for a Presidential candidate to use religion and/or religious ideals in his campaign. It bothers me especially when President Obama will use religion throughout many of his speeches only to turn around and enforce secular principles in other speeches. Thus, religion is only used as a campaign tactic. It would certainly be questionable for a potential teacher to openly express his/her religious beliefs in a job interview to become a teacher.

Sam S said...

I agree with Christy to the extent that it is wrong for politicians to use religion in their political campaigns, but I do not agree that it is unconstitutional. Religion, for the majority of the citizens of the United States, is a big part of their daily lives. When someone is running for President of the United States the country is voting on someone to run their country. So it may be almost necessary for candidates to talk about their religious beliefs, so that the nation can understand that candidates morals and beliefs.

kanderson said...

Before this course I had never really spent the time to think about how interwined politics and religion are. I do agree with Pam that it is not unconsitutional for the President to discuss God. I think that he may be distancing some of his votes by giving these Christian references (while securing votes in others) but that is his choice. I do wish that religion would stay a bit farther away from the white house, but what are we going to do not allow any religious individual to be in office?

TNTbo said...

I am in complete agreement with Christy here, at least in the sense that our leaders should remain as neutral as possible when addressing the nation. Let's not forget that at President Obama's inauguration ceremony, a prayer was read by a Christian minister. All of Christy's points here are a clear indication that our Presidents' efforts have been focused on the wrong thing. Getting reelected should not be our leaders' number one priority. However, I do not think it is unconstitutional for them to express their religious beliefs in a very public venue. There is no law stating that they must remain secular, and they are not acting on any irrational beliefs.