Religion is a prominent part of the American belief system and culture, but its place in the workings of American society is doing more damage than good. American citizens have been exploiting their freedom of religion in order to promote hate, violence and cult mentalities that have been pushing the government away from its well-grounded views on faith.
Is the US moving away from secularism? After the adoption of the first amendment to the US constitution in 1791, Religion was separated from the workings of the Government, with no special treatment provided for faith-related organisations. However, today we are faced with the problem of religious privilege, in which crimes made by religious groups are systematically ignored or given legal lenience when faced with prosecution. In the US, religious privilege is found mainly in the government’s treatment of Christian organisations, as Christianity is by far the most popular religion. An example of this in tax evasion; religious organisations do not have to pay any taxes, despite some churches being clearly fraudulent, earning millions every year for their celebrity pastors, who can also live in their houses tax-free.
Corruption is also present in the Churches themselves. Christianity was commercialised in the 1920s with the invention of televangelism- the preaching and attempted conversion of people via the media. This started with the invention of the radio, when pastors would hold regular religious broadcasts. This was relatively harmless, but televangelism escalated when it came on the television in the 1950s, and reached its peak in the 1980s. The 1950s oversaw the creation of the prosperity gospel, the belief that financial blessing is God’s will for certain people. This theology was adopted by several fraudulent churches, and thus the corrupt television we know today was born. Modern televangelists such as Robert Tilton and Creflo Dollar (yes, that is his real name) use the prosperity gospel to influence people into giving ‘vows’ (preferably in the form of cash), in exchange for financial luck. The pastors usually have a recommended donation, which in most Prosperity churches is around £200-£1000 dollars, and this money goes directly to the Churches owners, funding their luxury lifestyles. Some pastors will ask the congregation for money directly to buy expensive items such as private jets, claiming they will be used exclusively for preaching purposes, however multiple scandals have revealed the planes being used for extravagant trips to game ranches and ski resorts at the expense of the churches’ high-paying members. Surprisingly, this whole televangelism process is not only legal, but the organisations that conduct the shows are contractually recognised as churches. The legalities of televangelism were satirically analysed by comedian and television show host John Oliver, who tested lawful boundaries on churches by creating his own legitimately recognised church, calling it ‘Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption’, and blatantly asking for money from the live studio audience. While the Church ran into no legal trouble, it was closed by its creators a few months after it was created, due to the fact that the upkeep was extensive, as ironic donators continually sent in letters and money, all of which was donated to doctors without borders once the gag was over.
Hate churches are another example of the corruption of Christianity. Westboro Baptist church, a Calvinist church in Kansas, is notorious for its hate speech and website URL ‘ godhatesfags.com ‘. The church began picketing in 1991, protesting outside various homosexual, Catholic and Jewish events. The church mainly preaches against homosexuality, and regularly shows up at pride events around the world. Their style of protesting involves shouting insults at passers by and telling people that they’re doomed to eternal suffering.