Photo of hikers trekking through the winter woods

Some people don’t think that politics and religion mix. Public figures like Bill Maher can be incredibly disrespectful and dismissive on this topic, and the nation’s founders were divided on the issue. But it’s religion, the expression of personal faith, that is the lifeblood of democracy.

The founders understood that religious differences were central to some of the bloodiest wars in Europe’s history, but some, like John Adams, nevertheless believed that American democracy was “designed only for moral and religious people.” From their conflicting views, they came up with this simple instruction in the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Faith gives us the confidence to navigate and act upon the world and to trust in ourselves and our fellow humans that we can live by a commonly agreed upon code of law and ethics. Whether the confidence to possess such trust comes from belief in a book about an invisible, all knowing creator or a movie about lightsaber-wielding monks or an equation like E=mc2 is generally irrelevant.

Democracy simply can’t exist without faith and the trust it inspires.

No doubt that some wield their religious faith as a weapon to coerce the insecure and gain political power with the goal of imposing their will on others.

Girl holding sign that says, "My Faith, My Choice, My Body"

Abortion Access is Frontline in Church-State Struggle

The Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade has emboldened some on the right to speak openly about making this a Christian country. Viewed from that perspective, the abortion debate takes on a more ominous role in the nation’s politics as the separation of church and state has come under fire.

Read more >

That is not the way of democracy.

Emma Addams and the group she leads, Mormon Women for Ethical Government, are a great example for anyone who wants to understand how to express the tenets of their faith in a pluralistic society that prizes freedom of religion. It’s not easy, but it becomes far simpler when you treat those who don’t share your particular brand of religion with the respect and dignity that you want for yourself.

Photo of Emma Addams

Emma Petty Addams: Restoring Faith in Democracy

As executive director at Mormon Women for Ethical Government (MWEG), Emma Petty Addams is working to build a political center that models how people of religious faith can successfully advocate for democratic principles and build bridges where there is partisan discord.

Read more >

Author: George Linzer
Published: January 23, 2024
Updated: January 25, 2024 (clarifications)

Feature image: George Linzer

Please support our work

We are committed to covering
the growing effort to solve problems
for the public good.

More Viewpoints

Have a Suggestion?

Know a leader? Progress story? Cool tool? Want us to cover a new problem?

Leader Profiles

  • Ty Seidule: Dismantling the Lost Cause

  • Emma Petty Addams: Restoring Faith in Democracy

  • Jenny Zimmer: Movement Organizer

Progress Updates

  • Here, Where Climate Change and Immigration Intersect

  • Further Fracturing in the GOP

  • Why Applaud as the National Debt Continues to Soar?