GOD IN THE COURTROOM: A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS OF RELIGIOUS REPRESENTATION IN THE UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT VERSUS THE INDIAN SUPREME COURT
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractReligion often twists the ropes of the legal system, enforcing religious morale on court holdings at all levels of the government. However, the ethics of the collision of religion and government is questionable when a country holds secularism to be a tier-one priority. Though many outwardly “democratic” countries claim to be secular, one major religion often dominates the country’s political decision-making, even if not explicitly. Sabarimala, a large temple in Kerala, India, exemplifies the convergence of religious superiority and legally identified human rights. The temple is devoted to the deity Ayyappan, who traditionally has been considered a celibate God. Prior to visiting the shrine, devotees must undergo a 40-day period of abstinence, ritual purity, and prayer” (Vijay 719). According to Hindu tradition, menstruation is perceived as impure, and therefore, menstruating women cannot “observe this ritual purity for 40 days,” and have been consequently prohibited from entering the temple (Uma 288). This prohibition has recently been questioned by the Indian Supreme Court, with the prosecution representing the deity Ayyappa himself. In this paper, I will analyze the Indian Supreme Court holdings, and assess how religion is represented in these cases, then compare this ruling to religious representation in the American courtroom. Specifically, I will assess the cases of Mormon polygamy, Amish education, and abortion, to seek out similarities and differences in U.S. Supreme Court cases in which religion and individual rights intersect. Supreme Courts in both countries purportedly play a secular role, but it’s virtually impossible to completely separate one’s religious values from the legal decisions they make. Though the cases I will discuss may seem secular to the public eye, the United States and India both allow for religious representation and thereby a particular perspective of gods in the courtroom. Therefore, state interventions in religious controversies cannot be inherently neutral. Because the Court intervenes in cases with two diametrically opposed interests, it is clear that the Court’s judicial power can advance one group’s rights at the expense of others. By analyzing the cases of Sabarimala, Reynolds v. United States, Wisconsin v. Yoder, and Roe v. Wade, I will illustrate through an intersectional lens how the Courts have used their power to advance privileged groups' cases at the expense of disadvantaged ones.
Degree ProgramPolitical Science