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.