The Religious Test

David Rosman – Columbia, MO

Article VI, Clause 3 of the Constitution states, “…but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” Yet, there is a portion of the American public that is routinely applying this very test of religious belief to local, state and federal candidates.

Why should this scare conservatives and liberals alike? Because it is a continuation of the battle between religion and government that has been fought in this country since before the 1800 elections. Jefferson was pulled to the carpet because of his deism and the Virginia Freedom of Religion Act. Adams was drug by his feet for being a “hypocrite to Christianity,” he was a Unitarian. Pinckney was put forward as a pious Christian and Burr – well Burr was just a mad man.

I have several personal rules concerning for which candidate I will vote. One of those rules concerns the referring to one’s personal religion or god. Belief in their God, gods, spirits, incantations or science has become primary. Knowledge, intelligence, integrity and actions  have become, for them, secondary.

Once a candidate voluntarily declares her or his religious preference, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist or Atheist, I cannot and will not support that candidate. It appears to me the Constitution does not say that the government will not use religion as a test for office. There is no limitation here. No one is supposed to use religion as a test.

Jefferson and Adams had that problem 1800. John Kennedy was forced to declare his political independence from the Catholic Church because of the high level of prejudice against Catholics by the Protestant population in the 1950s and 60s. Jimmy Carter had the same problem, but this time as an Evangelical in 1976. Joseph Lieberman was questioned if his Judaism and holding the Sabbath would interfere with performing his duties as vice president during the 2000 election.

Today, there is a running discussion whether an atheist could run for political office and expect to win. My answer, I am afraid, is no.

I hoped that the American people would have recognized by now that religion is not a criterion for honesty, morality, leadership, or personal conduct. Jews, Christians, Muslims and others have broken their own religious guides for personal, political and financial gain. Many have selectively ignored the words in their holy books. Many regularly break the sanctity of the Ten Commandments. Six or seven if you are a Christian.

(Matthew 19: 17-19 – “You shall not murder; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness. Honor your father and mother. Also, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Mark 10 – (19) You know the commandments: “Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.”

And, by the way “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.” Mark 10:21. And you thought Obama and the 16th Amendment were punishing one for financial success.)

Too many “traditionalists” believe in war rather than peace, believe in the death penalty or abortion rather than life and death with dignity.

Too many have slept or are sleeping with someone other than his or her own spouse. Some are sleeping with a person of the same sex.

Too many hate their neighbors because of faith or color or sexual preference.

Too many place their beliefs in the power of money and possessions than their god. They have forgotten the poor and infirm. They have forgotten the teachings of “giving unto others.”

The list continues infinitum.

Let’s get back to the religious test for elected or nominated office.

At a 2010 primary debate held by the League of Women Voters of Boone County Missouri, Democrats, Libertarians and Republicans were invited. All were vying for various state and federal elected offices. Many candidates made a point of telling the audience to which church they belonged. Some referred to their religion and personal God in terms of personal council. Fortunately, no one claimed divine providence.

This should never be permitted in the American political system.

This is not to say that one needs hide their religion. One’s belief in God, gods, spirits, a being greater than man’s imagination or no god at all is personal. Sectarian and secular organizations have done wondrous things for man and the planet. Yet, the Founding Fathers were right; religion is not a qualifier for elected office.

If you call yourself a Constitution traditionalist, one who believes that that document is a living and breathing organism, and is the law of the land, then you need to abide by that law. Leave one’s beliefs in God, gods, the supernatural or natural science out of the equation for selecting members of government. There are much better measures of political job qualifications.

About David Rosman

David Rosman is an award winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in Communications, Ethics, Business and Politics. You can read more of David’s commentaries at, and
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2 Responses to The Religious Test

  1. Dan C says:

    I like what you are trying to do with this, Dave, but I don’t think you go where you need to go with it. The problem with religious decision making (that IS the issue) is not at all the “test for office”, but the question of how a person will make decisions, and which beliefs they have about morality and where it comes from. The constitution is meant to protect individuals or smaller groups from the larger bullies, and the test for office issue is one more method of keeping a mob from using the power of the majority to overcome the rights of citizens.
    The deep question is where to find a solid source of logic/reasons for making decisions as they come up. Obviously, the bible and other religious vagaries are not up to the task. Science has some answers, but not a collective insight to the purpose of Man. We need a new convention. One to determine the purpose of humanity on this earth, and to decode the successful behaviors of natural systems that have been on the planet much longer than our measly imaginations have. Beneath it all lies some simple rules which we should apply to our governments and ourselves:
    1. Give back more than you take.
    2. Diversity is as important as quantity.
    3. Joining groups is voluntary.
    4. Belief doesn’t matter: actions do.
    5. Actions taken based on blind belief are irresponsible and usually destructive.

  2. Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about information and love learning more on this. If possible,it is very helpful for me.

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