The Religious Bigotry Continues…In Full View, For All To See
A new editorial entitled The JFK Question: Sens. Specter and Feinstein impose an unconstitutional religious test has these words about the confirmation hearings for John Roberts:
…we appear to be traveling in the wrong direction.
Article VI of the Constitution prohibits a religious test from being imposed on nominees to public office. The clause was motivated by the experience of Catholics in the Maryland colony and Baptists in Virginia who had been the targets of Great Britain’s two Test Acts. These infamous laws of intolerance sought to prevent anyone who did not belong to the Church of England from holding public office. The Test Acts did not say that Catholics could not hold office; the bigotry was more subtle. Officials questioned would-be public servants to determine whether they believed in particular tenets of the Catholic faith.
While questioning John Roberts on Tuesday, Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter asked: “Would you say that your views are the same as those expressed by John Kennedy when he was a candidate, and he spoke to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in September of 1960: ‘I do not speak for my church on public matters, and the church does not speak for me.’ ”
Hours later, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California made it worse: “In 1960, there was much debate about President John F. Kennedy’s faith and what role Catholicism would play in his administration. At that time, he pledged to address the issues of conscience out of a focus on the national interests, not out of adherence to the dictates of one’s religion. . . . My question is: Do you?”
How insulting. How offensive. How invidiously ignorant to question someone like Judge Roberts with such apparent presumption and disdain for the religion he practices. The JFK question is not just the camel’s nose of religious intolerance; it is the whole smelly camel.
Outrage over this line of questioning was ecumenical. In his new blog, Jewdicious.blogspot.com, Jeff Ballabon of the Center for Jewish Values posted this from the Senate’s hallways:
I mean how grotesque is it that the Left feels free to indulge openly in half-century-old religious prejudice? This is not some crazy person standing outside with a rusty hanger–it is a United States Senator in her official capacity on national television. And this is no off-the-cuff blurt–these questions are excruciatingly researched and drafted and worded and reviewed and approved and choreographed by teams of liberal lawyers and advisors both on her staff and off. She–the senator who keeps harping at this hearing that her concern is the protection of people of faith–thinks an obnoxious question born of religious bigotry is legitimate because it was posed in 1960?
Non-Catholic Christians also spoke up. Wendy Wright of Concerned Women for America issued this statement:
It is precisely this kind of anti-Christian religious litmus test that many Americans find deeply offensive. . . . Feinstein is dipping her toe into the very ugly, muddy waters of religious bigotry. America’s Founding Fathers considered religious beliefs to be an asset, even essential to public officeholders. Sadly, Sen. Feinstein apparently believes the opposite of those wise men to whom we owe gratitude for our free and strong country.
Catholic leaders were stunned…Mr. Cella drew distinctions:
Of the two Senators remarks, Senator Feinstein’s were the most disturbing because she referred to the Catholic faith as ‘dictates.’ It shows her callous insensitivity and ignorance of the teachings of the Catholic faith…
The JFK question has no place in a Senate confirmation process. The Constitution says so…
…John Roberts will be only the 11th Catholic (out of 109 justices) to serve on the Supreme Court in its 215-year history. But his confirmation may be a historic first. It marks the introduction, on the record, of a constitutionally prohibited religious test for a Supreme Court nominee. We are going in the wrong direction.
This issue was also discussed in an earlier posting.