Friday, December 07, 2007

Religious Tests

Much has been made lately about the US Constitution's prohibition against Religious Tests for public office.  It has been implied in several op-ed pieces that this legal restriction has (or should have) a far broader application than it does.  The Constitution rightly prohibits the government from requiring a candidate to espouse a belief in any given religious tenet, or even any religious tenet at all, in order to be eligible for office.  This does not, however, apply to individual voters.  If a voter has a personal requirement that a candidate be of a particular faith, there is no Consitutional violation.  If I want to insist that I will only vote for Evangelical Christians (I don't have such a requirement), I can do that, and by doing so, I am not violating the Constitution, nor am I violating any nebulous idea of separation of Church and State.

After Mitt Romney gave his "Mormon Speech" yesterday (which wasn't really a "Mormon Speech" at all), some pundits criticized him for giving credence to those who would let religion affect their voting decisions.  First, Romney was being far more realistic about the issue than his critics.  Second, his critics are wrong.  Third, many of his critics are hypocrits.

Romney is more realistic because a large percentage of Republican Primary voters do care about religion, and among those, a large percentage have serious concerns about voting for a Mormon.  His critics are wrong because of the reasons I mentioned in the first paragraph.  A personal Religious Test is neither unconstitutional, nor unreasonable.  The hypocrisy of the critics can be found in the fact that many of them believe that a candidate who accepts the Bible as authoritative and believes that his faith should guide his actions should be disqualified from being President.  In short, they apply a sort of anti-Religious Test.

I am not writing this to defend Romney.  I have decided to support Mike Huckabee.

I think something he said in the speech was very significant.

Some believe that such a confession of my faith will sink my candidacy. If they are right, so be it. But I think they underestimate the American people. Americans do not respect believers of convenience.

Americans tire of those who would jettison their beliefs, even to gain the world.

Romney jettisoned his supposed pro-life beliefs in order to become Governor of Massachusetts.  Now, he has jettisoned his supposed pro-choice beliefs in an effort to secure the Republican nomination.  Republicans should reject him because of this, not because he is a Mormon. 


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