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Religion and Social Movements in America

A majority of the people who came to populate early

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in the process. A majority of the people who came to populate early America was religious, and while non-religious groups also advocate ideas to promote change and growth in the nation, religious groups seem to have more of a dedicated attitude towards approaching certain ideas and advancing those ideas which lead to America’s growth as a nation. An example of religion as a motivator for the growth of the United States is the motivation for expanding into the west as driven by the idea of “Manifest Destiny”. “Manifest Destiny” was the belief that expanding America into the west is a destiny provided to people by a divine entity. While not all citizens believed in this idea, the fact that it was still generally popular and advertised among the people exemplifies the influence a divine nature can have even on the decisions of the government and large number of the population. Similar accounts in which religion intervenes in decisions of the American political members include but are certainly not limited to the Supreme Court cases of ‘Engel v. Vitale’ and ‘Roe v. Wade’. These cases dealt specifically with the encouragement of prayer in schools by officials and the right to an abortion respectively. ‘Engel v. Vitale’ was a case which caused extreme controversy among the people, especially religious individuals. The case involved a school sanctioned prayer that had no
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association with any particular religious faction, which was offered to students who wished to pray in school. The concern was that while the school did not associate the prayer with a religion or even encourage students to participate in prayer, the fact that public schools are a government institution meant that they must adhere to the Establishment clause. In expressing the opinion of the court, Justice Black defended the decision of the court to ban prayer in schools by saying religion is “…too personal, too sacred, too holy, to permit its "unhallowed perversion" by a civil magistrate” ("Engel v. Vitale"). The ‘Engel v. Vitale’ case set up the boundaries between religion and government that are upheld to this day in a nation which continues to try and maintain secularism. While there were many religious people who were extremely against the decision of the case, the court could not deny the equally strong opinions of those who felt the prayer endorsed by the school was a violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution. Another extremely controversial decision which marked a significant point in America’s advancement of secularism was the ‘Roe v. Wade’ case dealing with the legalization of abortion. Abortion was a topic that was already seriously disputed even within just the general public and government establishments, but the religious aspect of the debate brought in a much more passionate crowd whose rationalizations dealt primarily with the idea of “the sanctity of life”. This idea was the thought that human life in itself was “sacred”. To say a life is sacred insinuates that there is a holy element to consider, which ultimately involves religion. While
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