26 September, 2020 — Must One Be Christian to Be a US President? Part 3

If in fact in the United States “religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God,” as in the words of Thomas Jefferson, and the “principal or primary effect [of a government practice] must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion,” as conceptualized in the US Supreme Court’s Lemon Test, then why is only Christmas Day a national holiday in the United States? Why not also Holi (Hindu), Mahavir Jayanti (Jain), Good Friday (Christian), Buddha Purnima (Buddhist), Idu’l Fitr (Muslim), and Guru Nanak’s birthday (Sikh), which are all national holidays in India, the largest democratic and secular nation in the world? If the United States is secular, then why are predominantly Christian prayers presented in public legislative and political settings, to the exclusion of non-Abrahamic (Jewish, Christian, Muslim) prayers and speeches?

Yes, the United States is a predominantly Christian country. But India is a predominantly Hindu country. And yet, the principles of secularity are adhered to more closely in India than in the US. Even on the official website of the US courts system, www.uscourts.gov, it is stated: “The Establishment clause prohibits the government from “establishing” a religion.” Even if we leave aside the issue of omnipresent Christian prayer in political settings, we must analyze the perhaps not so subliminal message promulgated by the ambiguous interpretation of the Establishment clause. Does this preferential enforcement not contain a warning to would-be political leaders that they must be Judeo-Christian, preferably Christian, to hold the highest elected positions in the United States? The mother of Kamala Harris was a Hindu woman from South India. Yet, when Ms. Harris, the vice-presidential nominee of the Democratic Party, spoke extensively of her mother at the DNC on 19th August, 2020, she said: “When I was 5, my parents split and my mother raised us mostly on her own…. She worked around the clock to make it work…. Helping us with homework at the kitchen table – and shuttling us to church for choir practice.” Ms. Harris specified the Christian church, but not once did she even allude to her Hindu background. In 2011, Nikki Haley, born Nimrata Randhawa and daughter of Sikh immigrant parents from India, took the oath of office as the first non-European origin governor of the state of South Carolina on a Bible. Similarly, Bobby Jindal, born Piyush Jindal and son of Hindu immigrant parents from India, also took the oath of office on a Bible when he was sworn in as the first non-European origin governor of the state of Louisiana in 2008.

While there is ample encouragement in the United States for people of all backgrounds to pay taxes and contribute to the economy through their hard work, is there a place for non-European origin, non-Judeo-Christian citizens in the highest levels of political office? Many countries choose allegiance to a certain ideology or religion. If the United States is one of these countries, then why not just declare it openly, so that those of us who don’t fit the desired mold can restrict our outwardly expressions of speech and religion and abrogate our political dreams and aspirations accordingly?

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