On Saturday, the Bhartiya Janata Party announced that Adityanath, the head priest of the Gorakhnath temple, would become the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. His appointment came in spite of his viciously anti-Muslim rhetoric and a slew of criminal cases. It signalled that the BJP doesn’t set much stock in its own development plank.
Adityanath is so controversial that even staunch supporters of the BJP don’t care much for him. “Yogi and Sadhvi should be thrown out of the party for speaking nonsense,” Anupam Kher said at the Telegraph Debate in March 2016 (video below).
Many contemporary examples of theocratic states embody science fiction author Robert Heinlein’s maxim, “Almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so.”
Adityanath did his best to make that a reality during his five terms in Parliament. According to a 2014 profile in the Business Standard, Adityanath sponsored five Bills as an MP which included a national law banning cow slaughter and one to change the country’s name from “India that is Bharat” to “Bharat that is Hindustan”.
India isn’t alone in attempting to battle history and belief. Over the decades, the US has also been trying to prove that it is a multi-religious state. “Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation,” former US President Barack Obama begins in this speech (below) from 2006. “We are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation and a nation of non-believers.”
And despite his strong religious beliefs, he goes on to add why the distinction between legislation and religion must be maintained: “Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God’s will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.”
Prominent British author and atheist too wasn’t a big fan of the attempting to mix religion and politics. In a 2007 talk, author Christopher Hitchens explains why a separation of religion is necessary.
Comedians, too, have found rich fodder in this debate.
“I’m completely in favour of the separation of Church and State,” said US comic artist George Carlin about the subject. “My idea is that these two institutions screw us up enough on their own, so both of them together is certain death.”
In 2013, comedians Jane Lynch and Jordan Peele sang a breakup song (below) dressed up as Church and State, respectively. “We’ll never see eye to eye, so let’s just say goodbye,” goes the refrain.