Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Politics and Religion, Part 2

“no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

Here we have another misunderstood part of the constitution. Some would have this apply to voters. They seem to believe it should prohibit voters from considering religion when deciding for whom to vote. They claim that, for example, a Muslim's religion should not be considered in deciding for whom to vote. A little thought puts the lie to that contention. If we look at that statement in context we see that the whole paragraph says,

“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.”

That statement is in the context of restriction on government, not on the people. It requires support of the constitution manifested by oath or affirmation. It places demands on government officials but none on citizens. If a citizen wants to support or oppose a candidate because of his religion, he has that right. Indeed it would only make sense that we refuse to vote for someone if we suspect that his religion would prohibit full support of the constitution.

I say this knowing that two members of my own church are running for president, and that some religious groups oppose them on that basis. That opposition is misguided on many levels, but does it violate the constitution? No it does not. Those opponents have a right to vote based on whatever criteria they deem important. If they think baldness disqualifies a candidate they have that right. If they think presidents should hold certain beliefs, they have that right also. Likewise they have a right to vote for or against someone based on religious belief.

We all tend to trust people similar to us more than those who are different. That leads to erroneous belief, but again we have that right.

I would hope that people would cast their votes based on appropriate criteria and after carefully considering which candidates meet those criteria. I do not believe that, in most cases, religious belief would be part of those appropriate criteria. (A religion that teaches contrary to our constitution would be the exception.) However voters have a right to decide which criteria they want to use, so we cannot prohibit consideration of any aspect they deem important.

1 comment:

Ten Mile Island said...

Your tendency to be fair is showing.

Nice post.