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Did I Mention the Constitution is Relevant?

No doubt in honor of the Constitution's 223rd birthday, the Washington Post is running an opinion piece by Damon Linker calling for the removal of the Constitution's ban on religious tests.

Of course, Linker says his religious test isn't really a religious test, at least of the "formal" Constitutionally proscribed type. Rather, he simply wants a couple of debates devoted solely to morals and faith, in order to "explore the dissonance" of religious conviction and democratic government. Naturally, it's quite obvious that he is really interested in outing religious Republicans as somehow disqualified by virtue of their faith from holding political office.

The questions Linker proposes include:

How might the doctrines and practices of your religion conflict with the fulfillment of your official duties?

How would you respond if your church issued an edict that clashed with the duties of your office?

What do you believe human beings can know about nature and history?

Do you believe the law should be used to impose and enforce religious views of sexual morality?

Atheists, "bearded Marxists," humanists, secularists, relativists and the such apparently have never had any ideas which might not be entirely compatible with democracy. (And note that anti-religious folks just can't get through a single thought without inevitably talking about sex.)

As might be expected, Linker has an example of a superb religious politicians: Barack Obama. Membership in a racist, anti-American, hate-group congregation is apparently just the sort of religious example which merits Linker's approval.

Categories > Religion

Discussions - 23 Comments

"...note that anti-religious folks just can't get through a single thought without inevitably talking about sex."

Come on, for real???

Were you able to type that with a straight face right after your (initial) praise for O'Donnell and passing along yet another item from the Family Research Council (the first time you offered us some of their "research" I believe the subject was... pornography).

The "religious folks" - even the scholarly variety, it seems - will pass up the chance to see some great musicians that aren't Amy Grant or The Barlow Girls (Ashland U is a scheduled stop for the latter) if it might make people have fleeting thoughts about the s-word!

This explanatory statement is painful to read:

http://www.calvin.edu/admin/sao/resources/articles/new-pornographers.htm

Why would a band name themselves "The New Pornographers" if not to be provocative? Why can't they simply let their music's merit speak for them?

Linker suggests this question:

"How might the doctrines and practices of your religion conflict with the fulfillment of your official duties?"

and then points out that the "Southern Baptist confession of faith asserts, for instance, that 'all Christians are under obligation to seek to make the will of Christ supreme . . . in human society.' What would this mean for a Southern Baptist seeking to lead a nation that includes many millions of non-Christians?"

But then there's this, from a quite recent Ken Thomas post here at NLT, where he quotes columnist Richard Reeb:

"In short, the necessary condition for Muslims' full participation in American citizenship is to renounce Sharia law. As long as any ambiguity or worse on this matter is tolerated, Muslims cannot be good citizens and they undermine American law. We can tolerate religious differences, but we cannot tolerate defiance of American law."

Reeb's idea doesn't bother me, but I suspect that this is a requirement that would only work in one direction (i.e., Southern Baptists and any of Rushdoony's theocratic disciples aspiring to political office, or members of the C Street Family, etc. would not be asked to clarify or renounce anything). What I suspect we'd get, in practice (esp. under Tea Party rule) is an expanded version of Glenn Beck's guilty-until-proven-innocent "Prove to me that you're not working with our enemies"
prodding of Congressman Ellison. And I'm sure, from an insular Tea Party/GOP perspective, that only makes sense since, in their minds, America was founded by colonial-era equivalents of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell (maaaaybe Billy Graham if we're lucky).

What a confused Washington Post article.

The Constitution's ban on religious tests is meant to mean codified tests. "No Catholics may run for Senator." Or, "No Jews may serve in any elected position."

It does not mean that individual voters may not consider the merits of a candidate's expressed religious position. Individual voters are free to cast their ballot based on whatever basis they feel is appropriate.

Millions voted against George W. Bush because of expressed religious beliefs. That's perfectly acceptable. Millions others voted against Barack Obama for similar reasons. Again, perfectly acceptable.

But the State can't itself stipulate religious rules of acceptance or rejection.

I can't believe the Washington Post would waste ink and space on this.

Yes, Don, we do exactly what Linker suggests in an informal way through every national political campaign. Everyone seems to have to clarify everything when it comes to belief; though, of course, they can lie, obfuscate, deflect scrutiny, and the most usual thing is for them to inflate their religiosity to create sympathy.

Craig, your last paragraph is absurd. When did people of the sort you are writing about achieve election to high office? My husband has a cousin, heavily bearded and given to wearing robes, who believes that Christians ought to live as the Old Testament Jews did. He has been running for office off and on for last ten years or so and has never even won a primary election. Except for his religious beliefs, he is a wonderful man and even if elected, he would be bound by law and the limitations of office from doing much of what he thinks he can do to effect change in America along the lines he thinks reasonable. Even at the state rep. level the average voter is leery of people with long beards who wear robes in public.

I actually would hope he won if running against a bearded or non-bearded Marxist. He is sound on democracy and republican government, if not on some other things.

However, I can believe the Washington Post would waste space and ink on this. It is, after all, the Washington Post.

As a bottle of Grey Poupon would say, "But of course."

Which makes me ask, is a rhetorical question one that requires no answer, or one that requests no answer? I've never been clear on that.

in their minds, America was founded by colonial-era equivalents of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell (maaaaybe Billy Graham if we're lucky).

Massachusetts Bay, Connecticut, and New Hampshire were founded by rigorous Calvinists and the same sort formed a majority in Maryland after an interim period. Thirteen of the sixteen colonies of British North America had a nominal religious establishment at one point or another and religion was the primary motor of the establishment of at least four colonies (Massachusetts Bay, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Plymouth).

How might the doctrines and practices of your religion conflict with the fulfillment of your official duties?

Well, there is fairly inflexible prohibition on lying; alas, artifice is an architectural feature of political life.


How would you respond if your church issued an edict that clashed with the duties of your office?

Who defines the duties of my office?


What do you believe human beings can know about nature and history?

Something, up to a point.


Do you believe the law should be used to impose and enforce religious views of sexual morality?

As opposed to being animated by William O. Douglas' views of sexual morality?

"When did people of the sort you are writing about achieve election to high office?"

Kate, just as not every Muslim with dreams of Sharia is as explicit as Akhmed Dzhalilov in describing their goals, not every Christian dominionist is necessarily as explicit as, say, Kevin Craig of Missouri:

http://kevincraig.us/theocracy.htm

but this doesn't mean that very similar ideas are not held by actual members of Congress. See The Family, The Cedars, C Street House, Doug Coe, and Abraham Vereide, for starters:

http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:rUN603U445EJ:www.harpers.org/archive/2003/03/0079525+christian+theocrats+congress&cd=7&hl=en&ct=clnk

"Even at the state rep. level the average voter is leery of people with long beards who wear robes in public."

I wouldn't be so sure. Don't give up on your husband's cousin. Consider those who have already succeeded, who, while not bearded or wearing robes, have displayed a whole lot of recklessness and espoused truly fringe ideas. Of course there are the quote machines like Christine O'Donnell, Carl Paladino, Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, etc. but it goes deeper than that.

Remember how Steven Hayward promoted NJ Congressional candidate Christopher Weber - right here at NLT? This is the guy who warned his YouTube audience about Obama's healthcare army coming to get them - and then challenged the "fascists" to come get him, as he wielded a gun at the camera. I posted the link and it worked for a while, but I think he succeeded in gathering up every copy. There was an otherwise obscure loon being promoted by a conservative think tank Beltway insider. (Hayward not only never withdrew his support but said that he wanted to buy the guy dinner).

Anyway, getting back to the Christian theocrat issue, I find the obvious message between Justin's post here (religious tests bad - if Christians have to take them) and Ken Thomas's previous post (religious tests necessary - for Muslims) to be unbearably lopsided.

Again, Ken Thomas's (presumably laudatory) quote of Reeb:

"the necessary condition for Muslims' full participation in American citizenship is to renounce Sharia law. As long as any ambiguity or worse on this matter is tolerated, Muslims cannot be good citizens and they undermine American law. We can tolerate religious differences, but we cannot tolerate defiance of American law."

Apparently, this renunciation of Sharia as "the necessary condition for Muslims' full participation in American citizenship" does not have a corollary rule for Christians (unless there's a conflict I've not seen yet between Paulette and Thomas).

So, we've got a situation wherein, by NLT logic, it's obviously a glaring violation of one's freedom to consider "religious [read: Christian] Republicans as somehow disqualified by virtue of their faith from holding political office." (even when their goals could be understandably construed as theocratic) but the test for Muslims of renouncing - completely, unambiguously - Sharia (presumably in a public way) is a "necessary condition" for their "full participation" in US citizenship, and not a violation of any sort?

Could there be a much clearer example of why we need a separation of church and state - not only to protect our democracy, but to protect believers and non-believers alike??

What's going on here is simply an opportunistic attempt to codify bigotry into a supposed clarification of the Constitution's enshrinement of religious freedom, to wit - Freedom for me, but not for thee.

I would fight against Sharia at least as hard as anyone, but at the moment the more obvious danger to the country is that from Christianists - many of whom seem to be comfortable taking their cues from an obscurantist soccer mom and Mormon charlatan.

Blah blah blah.

The interaction between Christian principles applied to moral life and the political architecture we have has been ongoing for 400 years. It is no novelty, and it is not at this juncture likely to carry problematic elements which are unfamiliar. It is not, ahem, a foreign import.

The interaction between principles enunciated in Islamic texts and political architecture of occidental origin has been a more uncertain thing, varying quite a bit over space and time in a circumscribed period (roughly 1909 to the present). We also have reason to believe (see Daniel Pipes on this point) that processes of modernization will generate a cultural and psychological system within Islam less given (than has been the case) to haphazard adaptations to local circumstances. Throw in the multiculti bushwah our regime class trafficks in and we got a problem, Houston.

Their are two main reasons Christianity fits so nicely with our Repubic:

1) Followers of Christ know that His kingdom is not of this world and that they must render unto Caeser what is Caeser's. Systems such as Islam WERE in political power and there is necessarily a tension when they're not (ie when the Prophet walked the earth he did so as a general and a ruler of men).

2) God and Reason (Logos) are one in the same - if there appears to be a conflict the Christian should stop and ponder. This, of course, does not apply to systems based solely on Reason (Nazism, Communism, most Fascist systems) in which a citizen who questions is either a counter-revolutionary or an enemy of the state.

When it comes to matters such as sexuality, a Republican Roman and a Conservative American would have a lot of common ground based not on religion, but on nature (Natural Law) and pragmatism.

The dirty little secret of the Left is that their creeds/beliefs are every bit as religious as traditional theology. We have the overweening belief in the State as a giver of justice and savior of the people (despite all evidence to the contrary), the belief that people can be perfected if only the environment is "fixed" (despite our knowledge that people are hardwired for selfishness and group-bias), and the belief that the only thing standing in the way is the Devil (capitalism) and his minions (religious people, bigots, white folks, etc.).

The only sane approach to polity is Sowell's "tragic vision" of humanity, a vision that the Founders shared. People will be people, and their governments and societies will never be perfect. We must balance justice with vitality (after all, Nature is never completely fair). And given the choice between a Southern Baptist and a Chavez-style socialist, I'll take the former every time.

"And note that anti-religious folks just can't get through a single thought without inevitably talking about sex."

I forgot to post this before in response to that amazingly blindered (or was it just self-serving?) remark.

O'Donnell herself seems to bring a lot of her thoughts back around to that topic:
http://crooksandliars.com/susie-madrak/tea-party-fave-christine-odonnell-thi

Art D, you don't do much for a conversation with the "blah blah blah" to start a response. I suspect your distaste for the "multiculti bushwah" (also) includes pretty much anyone whose views differ from your own in the slightest.

I suspect your distaste for the "multiculti bushwah" (also) includes pretty much anyone whose views differ from your own in the slightest.

You're projecting, Craig. The Christianist purveyors of fringe ideas enact their entire agenda, what happens?

1. Abortion is unsafe, illegal, and rare (as was the case prior to 1968)

2. Homosexuality ... a. ceases to be a protected category in labor and landlord-tenant law (as was the case nearly everywhere prior to 1977); b. gets no recognition in matrimonial law (as it never has whenever the general public has any say about it); c. is not cosseted by the state to the point of assigning its practitioners children to adopt (unknown prior to about 1984 and something Michael Dukakis was unwilling to countenance during his years as Governor of Massachusetts). d. is grounds for firing from the civil service when made public and explicit in selected contexts (as was commonly the case prior to about 1978). e. is not referred to in school curricula (as it was not as recently as 1978).

3. The school day.... a. Includes academic and vocational subjects, not instruction in contraception (as was the case prior to around 1963). b. Includes release time for religious subjects and ceremonial prayer (as was common up to 1962); c. does not include theoretical biology, or allows criticism of it (as was common prior to 1967).

4. Educational finance incorporates some franchise to opt-out of the state schools without financial penalty (as is the case in that theocratic hellhole, France).

5. The traffic in pornography is unlawful de facto and de jure (as was the case for film prior to 1966 and all media prior to 1952).

That’s about the core of it. You will find specific figures have been promoting a more elaborate (but less consensual) menu of policy options and (as ministers) they all have cultural and social goals not mediated through the political process. It bears little resemblance to dystopian fantasies conjured up by Margaret Atwood and a great deal of resemblance to certain aspects of the world my mother and father inhabited as young adults. I think it would have surprised Harry Truman (a, ahem, freemason) to learn he was presiding over a theocratic state.

Oh, I'm sure that's the full extent of the Christianist fringe, AD. Right, whatever you say:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100918/ap_on_re_us/us_gays_in_montana

I was discussing this w/ someone here at NLT recently.

Here's a tea-partier (ya know, teabagger is mroe fun to type, and really, it ought to be allowed in polite discussion, since it really was the protesters themselves who coined that term) who wants to ban abortions completely, including when rape and incest are issues.

Carl Paladino:

http://alicublog.blogspot.com/2010_09_12_archive.html#2290202805437211110

A decent society does not permit the slaughter of its young.

Is it proper for the appellate courts of Montana to impose their notions of social policy on the legislature and executive of Montana? The answer is, of course not. It is the business of the courts to adjudicate conflicts between subordinate and superordinate forms of law. The notion that constitutional provisions prevent legislatures from exercising their discretion in matters such as these is, as Mr. Justice Byron White noted, facetious. If you think the Constitution of Montana or that of the United States ought to have a clause listing a right to sodomy, you should advocate an amendment be adopted. If you do not care for that provision of the Montana penal code, you could also advocate it be repealed by a vote of the legislature. What is absolutely not legitimate is usurpation of discretion over this by the appellate courts.

In New York, there remained as of 1989, and may still remain, a provision imposing a penalty for consensual sodomy. It was, as it was in Montana, annulled by the state Court of Appeals. It was not annulled because it actually conflicted with any constitutional provision; it was annulled (I will bet the farm) because the homosexual population,its 'plight' and attitudes toward same are a feature of the self-concept of a certain type of bourgeois.

The provision of the Penal Law concerning consensual sodomy graded it a class b misdemeanor. Other offenses so graded include prostitution and patronizing a prostitute. Cannot say what the deal was in Montana, but here in New York, the prohibition on consensual sodomy was (one can say) part of the architecture of order maintenance. So are statues on loitering and disorderly conduct, which give the police some tools to use in maintaining the quality of life. I doubt among my father's contemporaries, ca. 1955, it would have been considered much of an imposition to prohibit prostitution or consensual sodomy, because it would have been their assumption that decent people do not do these things or do not benefit from a regime which provides a facility for their lesser side to do them.

We can rummage around in the position papers of the Moral Majority and like groups from the period, but if my impression is correct, they were not devoting much attention to the issue of criminal penalties for sodomy. Even divorce law did not get much attention ca. 1984. The Rev. Falwell's initial forays into politics were prompted by IRS rulings which made the operations of institutions he was building more difficult.

Laws on consensual sodomy do reflect the views of a different age in their assumptions about the self control that can be expected of people and in their reflection of certain unarticulated inhibitions and sensibilities. An active gag reflex is not a theocratic institution. As for what factions within the Montana Republican Party want or do not want: sensibilities can improve over time, and (taking certain prudent considerations into account) the law might just reflect that aspiration.

Oh, I see. You're concerned with decency.

Supposition 2 is a pretty difficult one. I know that "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." I agree that this implies a kind of logocentric quality.

However, I think it could be argued that the Bible does not advocate any kind of "nature," whether human nature or nature observed in the cosmos. Certainly it never shows up in the Hebrew. I am not sure about the NT (Greek word for nature is "phusis").

In fact, the theme of some great political philosophers' works have been the tension between reason and revelation, the latter perhaps impossible in a world which is completely intelligible. I take this to be why in Exodus 3:14 God, when asked to reveal His name, says "I AM WHO I AM."

The question, I guess, is whether He is primarily rational or mysterious.

Many people more intelligent than myself have built up arguments on both sides. Even Strauss, whose work seems have spent a lot of time focussing on the tension between Reason and Revelation, noted that when Moses brought down the Ten Commandments the Israelites saw that they were good. Certainly the Founders (even the agnostics) saw a happy marriage between their Protestant Christianity and a free Republic. For an irrational being, it's mighty convenient how Natural Law so often coincides with what makes sense/works.

I agree, but I just wanted to point out it isn't so monolithic.

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