Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Robert Jeffress and the no religious test clause

Over at Commentary Peter Wehner has added to his earlier criticism of Robert Jeffress by bringing out Article 6, Clause 3 of the Constitution: “but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”  Jeffress’ moment of fame came about by introducing Governor Perry and then declaring Mormonism a cult and stating that this should be a key factor in voting against Romney.

I have no opinion on whether Mormonism is a cult but believe that the idea that Romney’s faith should be a key political factor in this campaign is absurd.  However, bringing in the religious test clause is a serious reach.  It doesn’t follow from the test clause that religious belief can’t be a factor in evaluating candidates by a voter.  This is similar to the idiots who make a controversial remark, get fired or lose an endorsement or are boycotted and then complain that their 1st Amendment rights have been violated.  In both cases, what is being prohibited is an action by the government not the actions of individuals.

The categorical nature of Wehner’s argument is a bit odd given current times, when the United States is currently fighting radical Islamists in multiple theatres.  That doesn’t mean that Muslims should be kept out of office, but it is silly to suggest that the founders preclude voters taking religion into account if they were offered a candidate who espoused religious beliefs similar to those emanating from Iran.  Jeffress’ comments were stupid and will soon be forgotten, but the religious test clause doesn’t enter into it.

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