The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday concerns the ban on religious tests for public office. The third paragraph of Article VI of the U.S. Constitution clearly states: “The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States. (Emphasis added.)
There should be little question about the meaning of the above statement. Gerard V. Bradley at The Heritage Foundation gives the following information.
The original, unamended Constitution contains one explicit reference to religion: the Article VI ban on religious tests for “any office or public trust under the United States.” Despite much litigation over the constitutional border between church and state, there have been no judicial decisions involving the religious ban. The clause has been entirely self-executing. We do not know whether the Framers intended the clause to apply to every federal officeholder, howsoever minor; but no federal official has ever been subjected to a formal religious test for holding office.
The lack of “decisions involving the religious ban” seems to be a thing of the past. In recent confirmation hearings for federal appellate-court nominees, some Senators appear to be giving tests on religion. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif) and Dick Durban (D., Ill.), appeared to be giving a religious test to Amy Coney Barratt, a law professor at Notre Dame and a Catholic. They suggested that she is not qualified to be a judge because of her Catholic faith.
When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you…. And that’s a concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for for years in this country.
Were the senators concerned that Barratt would not uphold Roe v. Wade due to her beliefs as a Catholic? Apparently, Feinstein and Durbin believe that Christians do not qualify for public office because of their strong religious beliefs. I am certain that their attitudes would not be approved by the men who debated and approved Article VI. They obviously do not understand that the nominees’ legal experience and judicial philosophy are the only areas that should be questioned.
Since Barratt is not the only one currently being questioned on beliefs and there are sure to be some in the future, Conservatives are fighting back against the religious ban. This is another area that needs to be watched if Christians are to be allowed to serve in public office.