PERSPECTIVE: My Vote to Keep the Church out of Politics; as Faith Issues Make Their Way Back Up the Political Agenda, Sarah Jellema Makes a Plea to Keep Religion out of It

Article excerpt

Byline: Sarah Jellema

There was a time when religion featured so strongly in our culture, it was used to dictate every aspect of our lives. No sex before marriage, no shops open on a Sunday, no meat consumed on a Friday.

Although still abided by some people, such issues are no longer a matter of law but personal choice.

We are individuals, free to make our own decisions based on our own morals and values. As a cosmopolitan society, we are tolerant of other people's views and accept that there is no one doctrine for us all to stick rigidly to.

But if this really is the case, then why did Tony Blair receive backlash this week for claiming that religion should not play a central role in the upcoming General Election?

In fact, why did he need to point this out at all?

It's a no-brainer, of course religion should not be a factor in the General Election. We should be voting for our nation's leaders based on their political standpoint, not on their thoughts about our fate in the afterlife.

The health service, education, asylum seekers these are the issues at hand, and are therefore what MPs should be focusing on.

As the Prime Minister put it: 'I do not want to end up with an American style of politics, with us all going out there beating our chest about our faith.'

The voting public's decisions are complicated enough without the added worry of whether party leaders attend church every Sunday or not.

Recent activities of the most prominent chest-beating politician in the US this week have done nothing but reinforce Blair's point.

On Monday George Bush cut short his trip to Texas in favour of what can only be described as meddling in the affairs of a family being torn apart by the decision of whether to end their beloved daughter and wife Terri Schiavo's life.

Even after a Florida judge agreed to remove the brain-dead patient's feeding tube, without which she can only survive for a further two weeks, Bush stepped in to pass a Bill allowing Terri's parents to ask a federal judge to prolong her life by re-inserting her feeding tube.

Terri's husband, Michael Schiavo, was outraged that congressional leaders were intervening in the contentious right-to-die battle, and who can blame him?

After years of struggle with Terri's parents, Schiavo finally thought he had achieved his goal of releasing his wife from a life that he says she would never have wanted, only to have his hope dashed by the President's personal ideology.

Federal judge, James Whittemore, denied the appeal and theparents final appeal to the US Supreme Court was also rejected yesterday, proving common sense in the US can and indeed does prevail, yet one is forced to wonder at how it was allowed to get this far in the first place. …