US is secular despite high number of churchgoers, says US diplomat
* 9th American Studies Conference inaugurated at Quaid-e-Azam University
ISLAMABAD: Despite the number of churchgoers in the United States being more than that in Western Europe, the US is still a secular state, Patricia A Butenis, deputy chief of mission for the United States Embassy, said on Tuesday.
Speaking at 9th American Studies Conference on ‘Politics and Religion in USA’, Ms Butenis said there was no official church in her country and the state did not interfere with the religious affairs of the people. The two-day conference was organised by the Quaid-e-Azam University (QAU) in collaboration with the American Centre.
Terming religion and politics as complicated issues, she said the US was proud of being a secular state. She told the participants that the word “religion” only appeared twice in 27 amendments in the US Constitution since the 17th century. “The word ‘God’ never appears,” she added.
The diplomat said the US Constitution clearly stated that no religious test would be required to employ anyone in public offices. The Constitution, she added, restricted the Congress from making laws that confined religious practices or denied freedom of expression. She observed that religion was a personal matter of a person. She said in public schools in the US, children were free to pray according to their own religions. The diplomat said the American government was giving priority to higher education in Pakistan. She said USAID intended to provide $90 million over five years to Pakistan for educational reforms.
She added that Fulbright Foundation was awarding 112 scholarships this year to Pakistani students to study in various American universities.
Dr Islam, acting director of Area Study Centre of the QAU, highlighted the academic programme of the centre and formally introduced the conference that is an annual feature of the centre.
He welcomed the delegates from America and South Asian countries. He thanked the American Centre for its support.
In the working sessions of the conference, the participants would discuss the role of politics and religion in the USA, American literature and relationship between the US and South Asia.