U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel’s (D-N.Y.) call to reinstate the draft brings back to the national spotlight one of the most passionately debated aspects of American military policy. Established when the United States entered World War I, the draft required men between the ages of 21 and 30 to join the armed forces. The draft did not require women and the disabled to enroll with the Selective Service System. It also allowed for men in college and those who were conscientious objectors to either defer or postpone their enrollment.

Exemptions from the draft have often been discussed due to the popularity of draft dodging during the Vietnam War. Congress has since revised the draft exemptions so that college students would not be able to evade military service but could only postpone it for a semester or an academic year. Religious leaders such as clergymen, however, are still exempt from the draft. In fact, anyone who claims to have religious conflicts to the draft can contest to the SSS as a conscientious objector, which is then reviewed by a local panel. This panel would have the discretion of excusing someone from the war, a consideration not granted to those who have not been practicing a belief for a long period of time.

The government repeatedly mistakes citizens’ freedoms to observe religion as an excuse for granting those who follow a religion an upper hand. There are many cases where this also applies at the University: If for example, I were to approach my history professor for an extension on my 23-page term paper citing my need to ritualistically sacrifice my textbooks to the Elephant God, I would be granted the extension; however, this same excuse is not available for those who choose not to practice a religion.

The government should not hinder any person’s practice of his/her religion, however it should also not be influenced by religion. Citing a religious belief should not exempt a person from the laws that govern us all; incidents when parents withhold medical care for their children are cases of negligence and child abuse. Not everyone believes in a god, and even if they did, they should not be forced to say “under God” when reciting their country’s pledge.

A more dangerous misuse of the government would be the proposed distribution of funds to various religious groups outlined in the Homeland Security Act. Currently, the government gives many religious groups the status of a non-profit organization, therefore exempting them from some taxes. The Homeland Security Act, however, would drastically increase the relationship between religion and government. Determining which religious entities that provide public services receive money has the potential for a great deal of corruption and unfairness. It is also important to note that money is tangible and while funds provided to these groups might be offered for a specific purpose, other functions would also benefit. Since a goal of most religions is to spread the word of their beliefs, many religious organizations could use these funds for that purpose by sponsoring missionaries around the world, which are a great threat to religious freedom. This pacific threat is far more damaging than a group of religious zealots pointing guns to people’s heads in order to make the victims convert. The false pretenses of offering food and shelter conceal the fact that the desperate only get these supplies if they convert to the particular religion. The government would be indignant if asked to sponsor the militant group and should refuse just as adamantly when a request for funds is received from mainstream religious groups.

Religion’s involvement in this nation’s government resounds after most political speeches, as overly nationalistic politicians exclaim, “God bless America” to anticipating crowds. As more importance is placed in religion through legislation such as the Homeland Security Act, this trend of religious and governmental ties greatly jeopardizes our secular nation.

Chirumamilla is an LSA sophomore and a member of the Daily’s editorial board.

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