The Unstated Religious Test

Monday, March 13, 2006

The Unstated Religious Test

Christopher Hitchens has written an excellent article in the latest issue of Free Inquiry (unavailable online), voicing the concern that America has turned on its head the Constitution's prohibition of a religious test for public office:
In all the arguments about (SCOTUS nominees) John Roberts, Harriet Miers and Samuel Alito, one element was consistent. Their religious affiliation was bannered as if it were a guarantee, in and of itself, of integrity.

... However, along with this affirmation came a prohibition. It was, said the Right, quite outrageous to ask any further questions about the way in which a confessed allegiance might influence the application of the law.

Any such inquiry would be construed as anti-Catholic (in the cases of Roberts and Alito) or anti-evangelical (in the case of Miers). Rather than be accused of offending any faith-based "community," the Democrats duly abstained from asking about abortion, creationism, and other salient issues that are well understood to be of doctrinal as well as legal salience.

Quite a neat trick, when you think about it.

And now ask yourself what would happen to a nominee for the highest court who, superbly trained, educated, and qualified, announced that he or she had no belief in any deity and thought that an ethical life could be lived without religion.

It must say quite a lot that we already know the answer to that question.

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