Feb 222012
Authors: Jesse Benn

With the DOW soaring, unemployment dropping and Obama’s approval rating cresting the 50 percent mark, Republican presidential-hopefuls have turned to an old standby –– social issues.

And with Senator “Froth” Santorum surging from behind and now leading in the polls as the right’s favorite anti-Romney, religion has moved front-and-center.

As a staunch defender of his heavily persecuted faith, Santorum has called Obama out for his war on religion.

“The president has reached a new low in this country’s history of oppressing religious freedom that we have never seen before,” Santorum recently said.

Which is funny, because Obama really hasn’t done anything to “oppress religious freedom” since he took office; in fact, he’s only expanded on George W.’s faith-based initiative programs.

Now, Santorum’s statement came as a result of the recent compromise that got birth control covered for women –– even ones who happen to work at religious institutions. The compromise was truly that, and objectively was a win-win for everyone involved.

But there’s no telling that to Santorum, who doesn’t have any issue with religious institutions being required to provide insurance coverage for men’s boner pills , but is seriously offended at the idea of a woman choosing what to do with her body.

For Santorum, and other persecuted, white, Christian males like him, the war on religion is very real and very scary.

The problem, though, is that the so-called “war on religion” doesn’t exist.

And I’ll tell you how I know; if it did, I’d join the side fighting against it. And I’ve looked, and looked and other than Bill Maher, there is nobody fighting any war on religion in this country.

But there should be.

Because religion, something that Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of, has made its way into all sorts of our laws in the U.S. –– they even have a name: “Blue laws.”

Just try to buy a car on Sunday in Colorado, or booze a few years ago.

It’s not too hard to figure out why we can’t do those things on Sunday, a religious day –– except for those of us for whom it’s not, of course. Like Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Wiccans, atheists…basically non-Christians, is what I’m getting at.

That’s just Colorado; other states have stricter Blue laws than ours.

Then there are the nationwide things –– try mailing a package at the U.S. Post Office on Sunday for instance.

Then you’ve got our money, labeled: “In God We Trust,” our official motto –– a remnant of the Cold War paranoia that replaced our original, significantly more apropos, “E Pluribus Unum.”

Around the same time, and as a result of the same paranoia, we added the words “under God” to our pledge of allegiance, something I repeated every day in public school growing up and never felt comfortable with.

Finally, but not lastly –– only the last I have room for, and the most offensive invasion of religion in our political system –– are the tax benefits given to religious institutions. These take away from our shared income (taxes), and only benefit members of said religious institutions.

This happens on both a mass scale with 501c, tax-free status, and on the individual level, as people write-off donations to religious institutions.

A recent, perfect example of this came last month with the release of Romney’s tax return. While the former governor and current quarter-billionaire only paid a 13.9 percent tax rate in 2010, he donated and surely wrote-off 15 percent of his income to the Mormon Church.

And here is my big problem with tax write-offs for religious institutions; in 2008, the Church of Latter-Day Saints donated upwards of $200,000 to passing Prop 8, a ban on same-sex marriage in California that has since been ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. (Members of the LDS Church reportedly donated over $20 million to promote the ban, largely at the behest of the Church.)

Focus on the Family, a tax-exempt, evangelical Christian group based in Colorado Springs, reportedly donated over $700,000 to the ban as well.

There’s no reason, in a country founded on political freedom from religion, that churches should be allowed to use their advantaged, tax-exempt status to push their values into public laws –– as was the case with Prop 8.

So, let’s get rid of them all. No more blanket 501c status for religious institutions, no more “under God,” or “In God We Trust,” and an end to all Blue laws. The war on religion is long overdue, and it’s in need of recruits.

Jesse Benn is a senior political science major who hopes you’ll Google “Santorum.” His column runs Thursdays in the Collegian. He can be reached at letters@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 3:22 pm

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