Religious Leaders in Politics
Should religious ministers be allowed to hold political office?
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Religious clerics could be subject to the authority of a religious hierarchy. Political office hold...
Religious clerics could be subject to the authority of a religious hierarchy. Political office holders must be independent and free from outside influence from private persons or organisations. It is unwise to allow such potentially compromised, subordinate individuals to have a role in taking a country’s decisions. Even if they tried to be neutral, allowing them to hold elected office undermines the separation of church and state, which is an important part of many countries' constitutions.
The independence of the representative is a myth. Political parties instil rigid discipline, forcing politicians to ‘tow the party line’ rather than exercising independent judgement. Parties and individual politicians can also be dependent on special interest lobbies and campaign funds from private sources. Moreover, many clerics do speak out independently of their hierarchical structures, and clerics within political parties may be more willing to vote with their conscience, regardless of the 'party line'. In any case, we should allow the electorate to make their own judgements about the suitability and independence of particular candidates, and not make a blanket ruling against any ministers of religion from seeking office.
Clerics will be incapable of representing their constituents equally; they will either be biased tow...
Clerics will be incapable of representing their constituents equally; they will either be biased towards their co-religionists or will fail to understand those of whom their faith disapproves. Religions can be exclusive and uninviting, judgemental and unforgiving. It is inappropriate for a cleric with such views to represent citizens and legislate on matters which affect their daily lives.
Democratic countries should allow all adult citizens an equal chance to stand for political office. To ban religious clerics from pursuit of elected office is unjustifiable discrimination. Clerics have a set of beliefs about the world, morality and God. In this they are no different to anyone else. Indeed, their spirituality could make them ideal representatives and counsellors for their constituents – they will be by vocation approachable and easy to talk to. Furthermore, their pastoral work makes them very familiar with the problems of ordinary citizens, including poverty, injustice, educational issues, etc. - valuable insights for any legislator.
In a multicultural society it is unlikely that clerics will represent only their co-religionists. It...
In a multicultural society it is unlikely that clerics will represent only their co-religionists. It is wrong to expect the believers of one faith to be represented by the cleric of another faith. These are very delicate issues, and it could cause much unrest and protest if such a situation was imposed on a religious community. At the very least, those of other religions will see them as unapproachable. The principles of a secular state are nowhere more important than in a multi-faith state, in which overt displays of state affinity with one faith could damage relations between the state and those who adhere to another faith.
It is surely just as problematic for religious communities to be represented by any politician who does not share their beliefs. To argue that people should only be represented by members of their own faith is undemocratic and segregationist. Moreover, belief in a faith, even a different faith, might well give a cleric a unique insight into the perspectives of his constituents. This might make a cleric a better representative than an atheist. In a multicultural community it is particularly valuable to have people of faith willing to reach out to engage with others, and to work together to solve the problems facing society.
The views of religious clerics are more extreme and uncompromising than those of other people. The p...
The views of religious clerics are more extreme and uncompromising than those of other people. The presumption of divine or otherworldly authority and righteousness is an unacceptable one for elected representatives of the people. Political office holders must be capable of understanding alternative view-points and balancing these in order to take decisions; clerics would be too inflexible.
Extremists of every hue currently represent people in parliaments and legislative assemblies around the world. The most zealous politicians are often adherents of worldly, political ideologies like communism rather than religions. Allegations of uncompromising belief are equally applicable to devotees of non-religious ideologies and view-points. Religion should not be treated as any different. Even without having clerics in office, many countries already have political parties with religious roots; some of these are moderate, others more extreme.
Allowing clerics to stand for office risks compromising democracy. Faithful worshippers may see it ...
Allowing clerics to stand for office risks compromising democracy. Faithful worshippers may see it as their duty - or be ordered - to vote for a local spiritual leader, even if they do not share their political views.
Allowing ministers of religion to stand for political office helps ensure a good mix in any elected assembly, which needs people from a range of different backgrounds. At a time when politics is increasingly seen as a career in itself, many representatives have no real business or life experience before entering into office. Allowing clerics to run for election would go some way to reintroducing people with extensive experience beyond the enclosed 'political village'. Moreover, clerics are much less likely than others to be influenced by corruption - a major issue in many countries.
Implementing this measure is perfectly possible, although the details of its application will vary f...
Implementing this measure is perfectly possible, although the details of its application will vary from place to place depending upon local religious traditions. In some places it will be very easy to identify formally those who should be disabled from election, in others it may seem harder but local experience will similarly make it plain. Essentially, two overlapping groups would be affected: anyone paid to perform religious services, and anyone, paid or unpaid, with a formal role of spiritual leadership within a local faith community.
This measure is highly impractical and heavy-handed, as well as being discriminatory. Some religions have clear and organised hierarchies with full-time qualified and salaried priests or ministers; others rely upon part-time prayer leaders, religious teachers, preachers and pastors. Can we always tell whether someone is a minister of religion who should be banned, or merely a person whose deep faith involves them in spiritual and community leadership, but who relies upon other employment to make a living and so should be eligible for election? Should we ban everyone who has ever taught a Sunday school class or led a Bible study group?
What do you think?