Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Religion, Politics, and WHAT THEY WISHED FOR

Throughout American history, there has been much debate as to what role religion should play in politics. Just recently, much controversy has erupted over the Arizona Bill, SB 1062, vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer. The bill would “have allowed business owners in her state to refuse to serve gays and others if those customers somehow offended the proprietors' religious beliefs” according to the recent NPR article Arizona Gov. Brewer Vetoes Controversial Bill. To read the full article, click here.

Though this bill seems to avoid the influence of religious views in Arizona, it may be a reflection on the changing religious views in the U.S. as a whole. The article also explains that “Brewer had been pressed by leaders of Arizona's business community and some of her fellow Republican lawmakers to reject the legislation.” Republican strategist Jaime Molera also explained that, “business leaders believed a veto would help buttress Arizona's reputation nationally” showing that such legislation could conflict with the majority of national views on the matter.

America’s politics, like in many countries' politics, will inevitably be influenced by the personal beliefs of the citizens. Like the Arizona Bill, SB 1062, it is clear that religious affiliations of the citizens is a central part of a country’s politics and plays an important role in the bills that politicians will support.

UGA Press author Lawrence J. McAndrews examines the impact of Catholics in U.S. history in his new book, WHAT THEY WISHED FOR: AMERICAN CATHIOLICS & AMERICAN PRESIDENTS, 1960-2004. “Roman Catholics constitute the most populous religious denomination in the United States” and have influenced U.S. presidential policies and politics on issues from “Vietnam to Iraq, the civil rights movement to federal funding for faith-based initiatives, and from birth control to abortion…”

McAndrews’ book brings to light the strong influence of Catholic presence in political-religious issues in the United States from Kennedy to Kerry. It examines not just the politics and policy of Catholic presidents but that of presidents elected by Catholic voters such as George W. Bush.

Lawrence J. McAndrews, professor of history at St. Norbert College, has written many books and articles about politics in the United States. His latest work, WHAT THEY WISHED FOR, is scheduled for publication on May 15, 2014.