No religious test for office, including Supreme Court justice

I have been asked on several occasions both by members of the media and private individuals about whether I was … Continued

I have been asked on several occasions both by members of the media and private individuals about whether I was concerned that with Justice Stevens’ retirement there will be no Protestants on the Supreme Court unless President Obama nominates one to replace Stevens. With Justice Stevens’ resignation there are now six Roman Catholics and two Jews on the Supreme Court. My answer to the question is: First, no, it does not bother me, and it shouldn’t bother any American. Second, the question itself is un-American. Let me hasten to add I am not in any way, shape or form, challenging the patriotism of anyone who asks such a question. It is simply that the question itself is alien to our system of government. Article VI of the Constitution of the United States says, “No religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any office or public Trust under the United States.”

This constitutional prohibition of any religious test for office was put there by our founding fathers because of bitter experience of religious discrimination both in England and in some of the American state governments. The question of a person’s religious faith, or lack thereof, should be irrelevant to their qualification to serve on the Supreme Court or in any other political office–federal, state or local. This is particularly true when you are dealing with a judge. In our system of government, judges are to interpret the law as it is, not as they might like for it to be. As current Chief Justice Roberts said in his confirmation hearings, “Judges and justices are servants of the law, not the other way around. Judges are like umpires. Umpires don’t make the rules; they apply them.” Consequently, justices and judges must consciously seek to set aside their personal religious and moral convictions when playing their role as judicial umpires.

Whereas candidates for political office, such as governor, senator or president, are free to share their moral and religious convictions concerning what laws should be enacted if they were to be elected, justices and judges do not have that privilege.

As a Baptist, I strongly support the constitutional ban on any religious test for office. The question of a person’s religious affiliation, or lack thereof, should be that person’s private business, unless they volunteer the information, or they use their religious belief as a resource in making their case for elected office. Such religious affiliation, or lack thereof, is utterly irrelevant when considering the qualifications for a Supreme Court justice or federal judge.

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  • YEAL9

    If you have not already done so, please watch Julia Sweeney’s monologue “Letting Go of God”. (Ex-Catholic, now atheist) Julia Sweeney’s monologue “Letting Go Of God” will be the final nail in the coffin of religious belief/faith and is and will continue to be more effective than any money-generating book written by atheists/secularists or any blog on the historical Jesus, Supreme Court Justices or an “Ultimate Happiness Prescription”.from http://www.amazon.com

  • kentigereyes

    Speaking of the vatican rules, where were they years ago when the catholic church was hiding everything. This monster was moving guilty priests all over the country to hide their “sins”. WAKE UP JERKS that believe in this BS. TFL, Ken

  • alandsheila

    Insulting article that ignores the obvious. Integral to being a Catholic is having priority towards the edicts of the religion, as defined by the temporal leader, over any secular obligations.This was articulated clearly by the Bishop of Rhode Island when he castigated Pat Kennedy for voting for abortion rights. This writer would set up a barrier where ascertaining the priorities of a potential evaluator of our Constitution is seen as a “religious test.”This is a pernicious type of political correctness that ignores those such as Antonin Scalia who while claiming to hold the Constitution above his religion, in cases such as Oregon Death with Dignity, cites principles that derive from his religion, that death is not an acceptable option, and then votes to integrate this into American Secular Juresprudence. If the Senate does not explore whether a candidates religion takes precedence over the constitution, they are being grossly negligent.

  • microbrewjournalism

    What a refreshing commentary. Progressives obsess about the religion of nominees, on the assumption that one’s religion defines where one stands on a single issue. A nominee’s religion should be off the table. Certainly progressives can find other ways to predict how a nominee stands on that issue.

  • SCKershaw

    Application of the law might be as Justice Roberts intimates, analogous to umpiring in baseball. But each arena leaves a great deal to the discretion of their arbiters – what constitutes a balk? What is cruel and unusual punishment? There will be plenty of obvious examples of each, but it is the design of the Supreme Court to only consider the hard cases. The President is entitled to select a nominee that he thinks will answer the hard questions in a manner that the president prefers, without regard to the source of the nominees’ convictions. It is up to the Senate to determine if the nominees’ opinions have legitimate judicial justifications. The rest of us still have the right to make our feelings known in the usual ways.

  • YEAL9

    An Amazon.com review of Julia Sweeney’s Letting Go of God-“A Must-Have This Holiday Season!…, December 14, 2008 This review is from: Letting Go of God (DVD) Who else could take a personal journey of becoming an Atheist (which required the painful realization that there is no god, no afterlife, no heaven, no family members waiting on the Other Side, etc.) and make it into a side-splittingly funny monologue?! My favorite part is young Julia’s outrage at learning about the “Age of Reason” (the age at which Catholics believe god begins keeping track of your sins) only AFTER she was 7 and her grace period was over! Hilarious! And although her journey began with Catholicism (and Catholics will laugh the hardest!), it’s a story we can all relate to in our struggles with life’s big questions. Whether you’re a Believer, an Atheist, a Humanist, or just someone who hasn’t really thought about it, this DVD will pull at your heart strings, make you pee your pants laughing, and best of all, make you THINK.”

  • spidermean2

    To be a good judge, one must know the rules of God. The rules of man must be parallel to the rules of God otherwise man is just formulating laws that would lead to its self destruction.Catholicism, liberal Protestantism and Judaism (all represented at the SC) are false religions. Beeing false religions, it’s not a wonder why majority of the justices voted to strike down a federal law regulating online obscene content, banning intelligent design science in schools, etc. I can site a lot of supertitious beliefs based on the evolution theory and none whatsoever in ID.It’s a pity that America lack justices in the SC who can see stupidity coming long before it enters America’s doors.This article has grains of stupidity in it. It’s a shame that he is named one of the most influential Evangelical.

  • spidermean2

    YEAL9,Stupidity really has no cure. Everytime you claim that there is no God, please back it up with the science how your brain was formed from mud. Stupid.If you believe in evolution, please illustrate the science on how the bacteria can possibly evolve into a brain. Idiot.Also, how a bacteria can form thru natural selection. Is the proper mix of mud relevant?

  • Afraid4USA

    I bet there are plenty of atheists on the supreme court already. I don’t know how “religious” any of them are. I for one think it’s odd that most of the people who are insisting that we are “beyond the religious issue” are Jews or Catholics. I guess they’re saying that religion doesn’t matter in American any more. That’s not what the polls say. 51% of the people in this country self identify as protestants. That’s about the same pecentage as women and no one would suggest that women shouldn’t be represented on the Supreme Court. As a WASP, the last of a rapidly expiring ethnic minority, who founded the country and and established its values as the foundation of our mores, I would insist that at least one member of the court be a member of the country’s majority religion. As for Mormons on the court. You must be kidding. They are a cult. Which stil believes African Americans are Satan’s spawm and that the American Indians are the lost tribes of Israel. Oh, and the Garden of Eden will be established in Arkansas. They have tried to insinuate themselves into the Protestant mainstream, but just do a little investigation into their creed, rather than the PR they spend thousands to delude people into thinking they are Christian and your eyes will be opened. I also have a problem with a Moslem unless he or she renouces the portions of the Koran which state that the ultimate law is the Koran (Sharia).

  • barrysal

    Good article, Rev Land, and I respect your point of view. Religion should not be part of the selection process. But neither should your sex, race, beliefs, and sexual preference.I believe that the person as a person should be considered. Let’s throw our separatism aside, and get rid of the bums in Congress and Senate who do not represent us!!! ELECTION DAY’S COMMING! We’ll REMEMBER IN NOVEMBER!!!

  • citizenconcerned

    Afraid4USA:You area good student; but you have 2-two ‘hang-ups’ or ‘monkey on shoulder’.1: When you say, “As for Mormons on the court. You….. They are a cult.” AND2: When you say, “I also have a problem with a Moslem unless he or she renouces [That] the ultimate law is the Koran (Sharia).”For your Education; ‘cult’ means “CULTURE” and ‘sect’ means “SECTION.”America(s) will never be a predomimnately “ISLAMIC” [Muslim., Moslum, Moslim..] Nation. Not in America, but Islamic-UMMAH will kill themselves off in the Middle-East and Elswhere. There is Room for only 1-“ABRAHAMIC” + 1-“VEDIC” Planet/World!. Therefore; 2’s is a Company but; 3’rs is a Crowd!America’s true “T-R-I-N-I-T-Y” is in the “MAYAN” + “ABRAHAMIC” + “VEDIC”! Especially comes Post 2012+! America is getting more Beautifull, for sweet sweet U.S. of A., is So So very Young (Who come from the ‘Elder’s’ not the oyherway around). O.K.?

  • DaveHarris

    If there can be a “race test” (e.g. Thomas’s “black seat”) and a “sex test” (e.g. Sotomeyer’s “woman’s seat”), why can there not be a “religion test”? This is hypocritical, which is un-American. Having a majority of the Supreme Court justices belonging to one minority religion, particularly one which pays homage to a foreign leader as the absolute moral authority, would seem to be a bad idea. What if most of the justices were Mormons? Or Muslims? Who do you think they’d really be serving? There is just as much reason to reject someone over religious beliefs as there is to reject him over his race or sex.

  • jimfilyaw

    translation: just as falwell, robertson, and the rest of the religious right held and hold, it doesn’t really matter what a person’s real relationship with god is just as long as they toe the line on secular matters such as taxes, social legislation, and any attempt to aid the less fortunate (they’re agin it). in the end, its all about power, just the reverse of what j.c. taught consistently. what frauds!

  • herrbrahms

    Perhaps it’s time to have an agnostic or atheist on the Supreme Court. Talk about a historically underrepresented constituency…

  • spidermean2

    The idiotic YEAL9 aka CCNL wrote “What explains this explosion of living creatures—1.4 million different species discovered so far, with perhaps another 50 million to go?”There is no another 50 million to go if there is no SELF-REPLICATION which science upto now has no clue of understanding. Blame the stupidity of this person to the Supreme Court for disallowing the teaching of Intelligent Design in schools but promoted a pseudo science which is full of superstitions called Darwinian Evolution. Imagine these idiots think that a bacteria can evolve into a brain if we only allow it to evolve a million years. It doesn’t take rocket science to foresee where these idiots will end up a few years from now. If Doomsday is coming, don’t blame it on God. You know very well whom to blame — your OWN STUPIDITY.It doesn’t matter anymore who becomes the next SC justice coz the coming destruction is irreversable. They will all be replaced en mass and thanks in part to the fruits of their labor. The crazy decisions they’ve penned has grown into a monster that will swallow them all.

  • buyacme

    Thank you Richard Land,I have two almost conflicting opinions on this topic:Opinion 1. I agree with you. Our founders envisioned an America that practiced freedom of religion and separation of church and state. Judging a candidates religious affiliation is the first step in allowing religion to play a role in our government. However, testing whether that candidate would exert the will of their religion over the will of others who do not follow that religion is, I believe, a valid test. I doesn’t matter to me if my representative is Catholic, I just don’t want them to try to pass a law that forbids eating meat on Friday’s.Exerting the will of the religion onto the entire population is where we start to creep into a theocracy, where we see a lot of violence and loss of freedom. Thank God for America, Land of the Free! Let’s make sure it stays that way.Opinion 2: Maybe I don’t agree with you. I do believe it is important to have a good mix on the court. If all Justices were Catholic, and then they made an unpopular ruling, it is historical human nature that they would be blamed as Catholics on some level. Then all Catholics would appear somewhat guilty by some part of the population. Think of the Jews relegated to handling finances because it was not against their religion (it was against Catholic religion). When economies suffered, the Jews would be vilified. Perhaps that would not have happened if both Jews and Catholics were money handlers. Having a healthy mix on the court prevents any one group from being singled-out. And that is good for democracy.

  • citizenconcerned

    I Seriously believe that another Woman Supreme Court Judge , who doesn’t have to be Jewish, would be the best choice or smartest thing do for Mr. OBAMA. Or. A Mormon (gender should not matter)would make an interesting appointment. Or a Muslim. Atleast they are still of the Abrahamic Religion System. You must realise that Mormon’s are the 4th Abrahamic Religion. And to see 2 Mormons + 2 Catholics + 2 Jewish + 1 Muslim + 1 Protestant + 1 Atheist or Agnostic would be the right balance. Or alternate between 1 Buddhist or 1 Hindu , which are both Vedic (not Abrahamic) in place of any of the Abrahamics.So 6 “Catholic” in our U.S. Supreme Court as Justices today, is very very scary or something of great concern. Loyalty to the Vatican Nation (in Italy) is more dangerous than Loyalty to the Mormons (Utah or New York, U.S.A.) Nation. Atleast the Baptists and the Evangelicals will have to learn to respect the Mormon’s, who’s Bible is Hilarious, yet interesting or more so than the New Testament (KJV). After all; JEHOVAH/YAWEAH means “Jesus” , a God who came here in “Flesh and Blood” to save Humanity by Dieing on a Cross, with (Pagans) Romes Blessing or Assitance, not just with his blood on Jews (Abrahamics) Right? So, IF, The U.S. Constitution can be Bent to accommodate Hillary Clinton (a Nepotist and Usurper) for Secretary Of State (see U.S. Const. 1:6) leaving her job, conrtrary to U.S. Constitution, as Senetor of N.Y.Then Electing a MORMON would be the “AMERICAN-WAY” to do the RIGHTeous thing.”CHECKS and BALANCES” anybody?