Sunday, October 16, 2011

The No Religious Test Clause and Social Conservatives

Article VI of the United States Constitution:
All Debts contracted and Engagements entered into, before the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation.

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
Over the last couple of weeks, what was once simmering below the surface and talked about only in intimate company has now come out into the open: Mitt Romney is member of the Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormon).  For most of us, Mr. Romney (and for that matter Jon Huntsman) being a Mormon was never anything we worried about.  For most of us, his tendency to change his political positions more often than a surgeon changes scrubs is what matters.

To social conservatives and especially those who are Southern Baptists, Mr. Romney’s Mormonism is a very strong negative.  The question though is: Why should it matter if Mr. Romney is a Mormon, a Catholic, a Baptist, a Hindu, a Muslim or an atheist?  If social conservatives are such great followers of the U.S. Constitution, then why are they now claiming that since Mr. Romney is a Mormon and thus not only a member of a cult, but also not a “Christian”, he should not be the 2012 Presidential nominee?  Are they not putting Mr. Romney to a religious test?

The propensity of social conservatives to decide the political fate of a person based on their religion or lack of religion is one of the myriad problems with social conservatism.  Though it clearly states in our Constitution that one’s religion or lack of religion is not to be considered when deciding who should hold office, social conservatives believe it does matter.  Look at how social conservatives have attacked President Obama, claiming he is some secret Muslim and before that his choice of “Christian” church.  They went nuts over Congressman Keith Ellison to be photographed, after his swearing in, with a Koran in his hand.

Even social conservative darling, Governor Chris Christie has taken heat for appointing a Muslim to be a New Jersey Superior Court Judge.  And how many remember (or at least learned) the great fear over the fact that the election of a Catholic John F. Kennedy as President would mean that he would be the puppet of Pope John XXIII.  I also think that Senator Liebermann being Jewish was a factor in Vice-President Al Gore’s loss in 2000, at least in the South.

Our Founding Fathers knew the inherent dangers in allowing ones religion to be a factor in whether or not they could hold office.  They knew that unless they put a blanket prohibition on using one’s religion or lack of religion as a test of whether that person was qualified to hold office, they would have seen what we are seeing today.  In fact, I think they would be appalled at even the mentioning of Mr. Romney’s religion let alone the question of whether or not he is a real “Christian”.

Social conservatives have always loved cherry picking which parts of the Constitution they wish to follow and which ones they wish to ignore.  That is why we see candidates for the Republican Presidential nomination gleefully answering questions as to whether or not Mr. Romney is a true Christian because he is a Mormon.  The only answer to the question should be: I resent that you are even asking such a question, but since you have asked, the only answer I can give is that the U.S. Constitution does not allow us to consider one’s religion or lack of religion as to whether or not that person may hold office.  Of course, social conservatives, such as the ones running for the Republican Presidential nomination, could never answer the question in that manner and that is a problem.

I, myself, don’t give a shit what religion any candidate is or isn’t.  All I care about is will they be a good office holder.  Will they look out for all Americans or only the privileged few?   Will they be good stewards of our nation’s natural resources or will they turn a blind eye to the pillaging of those resources by corporations?  Do they believe in equality for all or do they believe that some are lesser citizens?

These are the questions I ask.  These are the questions that should be asked.  The only question I never ask is: What religion are they.  And that is how it should be, as declared in our own Constitution.


  1. Republicans embody the evidence that the separation of church and state is essential.

  2. @Anonymous,

    I wouldn't paint as broad a brush as to say that all Republicans are guilty of ignoring the prohibition against using religion to decide if someone is qualified for office or not. That is why I focused on social conservatives.


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