A few Democrat U.S. Senators, including Illinois’ own Dick Durbin, have been criticized for their questioning of 7th Circuit Court of Appeals nominee Amy Coney Barrett on the grounds that they were attempting to impose a religious test in contravention of the U.S. Constitution.
The National Review’s Alexandra DeSanctis provides the background:
Barrett is a law professor at the University of Notre Dame who has written about the role of religion in public life and delivered academic lectures to Christian legal groups. Drawing on some of these materials, [U.S. Senator Dianne] Feinstein launched a thinly veiled attack on Barrett’s Catholic faith, asserting that her religious views will prevent her from judging fairly.
The Founding Fathers included in the U.S. Constitution a ban on religious tests. Here it is in Article VI:
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.
It’s basic common sense to realize that no religious test “shall ever be required” means that there will be times when individuals will hold personal beliefs that run counter to what a statute might require. Can a person fulfill their duties if their beliefs run counter to the intent of a law? By banning religious tests, the Founders clearly answered “yes.”
For years now, many commentators and scholars have been outlining the simple fact that the word “religion” means “an organized system of beliefs.” Thus — Leftism, extreme Environmentalism, just to name two, qualify as a religion.
Obviously, some on the political right would love have a religious test for those adhering to the religion of Leftism.
In Article VI, the Founders were clearly seeking to avoid controversies that were common during the founding era regarding Christianity and its many denominations. Nevertheless, the concept of a “test” by its very nature goes beyond the Christian Church.
As it happens with every issue of concern, conservative commentators have done the heavy lifting on explaining the details surrounding this latest controversy.
Here are two more excerpts from the important article by Alexandra DeSanctis:
Feinstein issued this highly unnecessary and evidently anti-Catholic comment in spite of the fact that Barrett said earlier in the hearing, “It is never appropriate for a judge to apply their personal convictions whether it derives from faith or personal conviction.”
. . .
These criticisms echo a report from the left-wing Alliance for Justice, which alleged that as a judge Barrett “would put her personal beliefs ahead of the law.” This and other claims contained in the report are completely unsubstantiated, much like the charge levied by Feinstein.
In fact, Barrett has explicitly written that “judges cannot — nor should they try to — align our legal system with the Church’s moral teaching whenever the two diverge.” She has also insisted that judges ought to recuse themselves in situations when their faith conflicts with their judicial responsibility.
One would think these arguments would resolve Democrats’ concerns, but it seems that those on the left are indeed willing to take issue with Barrett’s determination that Catholic judges should recuse themselves if personal convictions stemming from their faith would impede their ability to do their job.
Writer Todd Starnes called it “an ‘Are you now or have you ever been a Catholic’ moment — and it was completely disgraceful.”
Both Feinstein and Durbin denied having subjected the nominee to a religious test.
Regardless, this is becoming increasingly common — here are two more articles of interest:
Democrats Are Increasingly Comfortable with Religious Tests
Senators badger a judicial nominee about her Catholicism.
In the latter, Dr. Alan Keyes writes about “the best way to answer people who have forgotten that a concern with conformity to ‘the laws of nature and of Nature’s God’ is not a religious test.” Keyes writes that instead, it is “a test of fidelity to the principles on which our Constitutional liberty depends.”
This isn’t the first eruption about this — and it’s easy to guess more will follow.
Earlier this year, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) made the religious test an issue when he grilled Russell Vought, President Trump’s nominee for Deputy Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget.
Two years ago, this issue got attention when presidential candidate Ben Carson said that it wouldn’t be a good idea for the United States to have a Muslim president. Here are a few articles addressing that controversy:
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