Olivia Hille headshot

Since the founding of our country, religion has always been a driving aspect of our society. Public figures, celebrities and politicians alike voice their support for which religion they choose to practice. In many cases, politicians will gain more headway in certain districts due to their religious affiliation, especially in rural areas of the country. As the 117th Congress officially begins, with sessions having started as of Jan. 3, 2021, the influence of religion and the church has also taken its hold on the legislative branch. 

In the U.S. House of Representatives, there is only one representative who does not affiliate with any religion. It is the prerogative of the United States government to keep the separation between church and state clear and defined. There is a disconnect between rural and urban American which religion plays a major role. 

For example, North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis is aware of this disconnect and, if anything, continues to uphold the polarization. Tillis, like many others in the Republican Party, creates this narrative that Democrats across the aisle are against religion.As stated on Tillis’s website, Tillis references a dispute between a custom cake business and the court, stating that it is within a business’s right to deny services based on religious beliefs. Ultimately, this stance paves the road for homophobia, transphobia, racism and sexism

It is disturbing that our own senator, who represents many religions, races, sexualities and genders, basically stated he does not support his own voters. While this is not the only concerning statement from Sen. Tillis, nor will it be the last, it begs the question of how separated is church and state? 

Essentially, there isn't a major separation between church and state if denying goods and services is tagged on to freedom of religion. You are not practicing your religion when you ask someone their sexual orientation; you are being intrusive and weird. You are not practicing your freedom of religion by protesting against abortion; you are simply denying someone else basic health care which, again, is none of our business unless you’re planning to adopt their unborn child. 

It is pertinent that we, as students, recognize how personal infringement presents itself. Especially for those who advocate for conservative politicians and policies. This applies to our own clubs and groups on campus, like the College Republicans, who “work with county and state Republican organizations to help Republican candidates up and down the ballot." Unfortunately, conservative politicians and policy tend to tiptoe the line between being constitutional and attempting transgressions in the name of religion. 

The rise of Christian extremism is exacerbated by the lack of denouncement from the conservative side of the legislative branch. Religion is not inherently extreme, as many use faith for love and consideration in our harsh world. Unfortunately, the kindness and openness of religion is shadowed when church and religion are used to harm and diminish other lives. Simply, there is a line that has since been crossed by many who claim to represent our population, and it is dangerous if this mentality perseveres. 

Editor's Note: Updated column with writer's headshot. Corrected spelling error.