Hot Potato speaker hopes to bring clarity to students unsure about mixing religious and political beliefs.
By Ryan Flournoy
Americans should recognize the religious roots of their country, a city council aide said at the Oct. 20 Hot Potato lecture at the Methodist Student Center.
Jeff Bazan, special projects staff member to District 7 Councilman Cris Medina, said he wanted to help guide students through the historic and often heated argument over religion and politics.
“Religious issues play a big part in the discourse of politics in our country,” Bazan said. “It’s going to be very interesting in the next 20 years to see which way our country goes.”
The First Amendment protects freedom of religion and prohibits the federal government from laws that establish religion.
But Bazan, who spoke to a crowd of about 30 students and faculty, said this country’s political climate has always explored religious beliefs.
“America was founded as a country with Judeo-Christian values and I think, going forward, that should always be the backbone of our country,” Bazan said.
Bazan spoke about the major differences in religious practices by Republican and Democratic candidates.
“On the Democrat side, as far as religiosity goes, you have a lot more liberal Christians,” Bazan said. “More evangelist Christians and religious fundamentalists tend to support the Republicans.”
Identifying himself as a traditional Catholic, Bazan supports governmental decisions that adhere to a set of strong Christian morals.
Bazan said this country is suffering from a deep divide stemming from cultural religious issues such as contraception laws, same-sex marriage and the death penalty.
In places in the South, like Alabama, polls reveal that over 90 percent of residents consider themselves traditional Christians.
Meanwhile, in northern states like Vermont or Oregon, the majority of people claim no religious affiliation at all.
Bazan recalled when the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, a lot of county clerks in the deep South refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses because of their religious beliefs, whereas same-sex marriage has been legal in Vermont and Massachusetts for almost a decade.
“It seems like our country is getting torn apart based on those who have their views rooted in traditional religion versus those who base their views on their own conscience and no religious document,” Bazan said.
This conflict of religious conviction versus secular ideas often leads to a discussion of church and state, he said.
Bazan said the term “separation of church and state,” first coined by Thomas Jefferson, highlights the First Amendment’s intent to prevent the federal government from enforcing any religion as a universal law and allows individual states to worship without government interference.
Like U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, Bazan agrees certain civil issues should be determined by individual states like, “the legalization of gay marriage should have been made at a state level,” Bazan said.
He said religious beliefs play a role in the U.S. presidential campaigns.
“I believe there are various approaches of implementing traditional Christian values in politics,” Bazan said. “I think you’re going to see in the 2016 presidential election which way the Democratic Party is going and which way the Republican Party is going, as far as religion is concerned.”
“In the end you should vote for the candidate that best represents your ideas and opinions,” Bazan said. “That’s politics 101.”
An audience member asked Bazan to explain the value of his religion.
“Personally, I believe that at the end it offers me salvation,” Bazan said.
The center’s free Hot Potato lectures welcome students regardless of their religious affiliation. The campus ministry provides a baked potato for attendees.
For more information, visit www.saumcm.org.