“[N]o religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” – Constitution of the United States, Article Six, Section 3, 1787
What a different two centuries make. Do you see the disconnect?
The recent weeks and months have seen an unremitting, relentless attack on the United States Constitution by conservative pundits, think-tanks, and political leaders. The attacks have come from every direction, from the demand that all the amendments be repealed to rejections by guns and states’ rights advocates of all save the Second and the Tenth.
The First Amendment has been a special target since the Bush administration. One of the greatest accomplishments of our Founding Fathers, freeing the new nation from the terrors of State-sponsored religion, it has been reinterpreted to apply only to Christians and to advocate not a wall of separation but a wall of exclusion – a United States for Christians only.
We have seen a deluge of claims that atheists and secular humanists and Pagans and feminists and gays and lesbians – and now Muslims – are not really Americans at all (once upon the time, in early Colonial America, it was the Catholics and Jews who were persona non grata); that they have no franchise here.
We are told that no liberal government can be a legitimate government (an odd development in a liberal democracy founded on the principles of the very liberal European Enlightenment) and that only conservatives are fit to rule. There has been talk that states should simply ignore the federal government, or even secede, or that citizens should defend their selected Constitutional Rights with their Second amendment rights. In other words, use one Amendment to destroy the others.
We have been told by the Tea Partiers (who repeat what their billionaire masters tell them) that since President Obama’s election they are fighting for their rights, but at the same time and in the next breath they suggest that great Americans give up their rights – at least, when they are Muslims.
Apparently, the threatened WASPS, grasping at their privileged position as it slips away under a deluge of immigration and diversity, feel they are the only ones who should actually have rights, and that somehow, this is what the Founding Fathers intended.
Though the Constitution states quite explicitly that there is no religious test to hold office – in other words, that the public figure’s religion is a matter of absolutely no concern whatsoever – we are told that only Christians are fit to hold office.
If you thought the situation was outrageous before, it’s just gotten worse. As the official blog of Americans United for Separation of Church and State reported on August 31, 2010, “The head of the Hawaii Republican Party has taken it upon himself to send out an e-mail warning pastors that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mufi Hannemann is “not righteous.”
Yes, a candidate is not righteous. This is not a couple of Republicans fighting each other, one a moderate and the other Tea Party vested. No, this is a Republican talking about a Democrat, rejecting him not on the basis of policy or platform, but on the basis of religion.
Righteousness, in case you skipped the first half of this article, is not a requirement for public office. It has never been. The Constitution got rid of all those crazy Old World laws governing state-sponsored religion.
The demand that a candidate be righteous flies in the face of Article Six, Section 3: “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
That seems pretty clear. I mean, it’s not difficult to understand the wording, is it?
It is true that some State Constitutions still contain language that demands what the Constitution denies. It is also true that in Torcaso v. Watkins, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled – unanimously, by the way – that State constitutions that include such language violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
The Fourteenth Amendment (1868), you see, stated, “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.”
The Fourteenth Amendment, by the way, is another one of those – along with the First – the Republicans really, really hate.
Hawaii does not have a religious test in its Constitution. But even if it did, it would be as irrelevant as it is unconstitutional.
Jonah Kaauwai, like so many other conservatives, doesn’t get it. As the AU blog puts it, he “puts forth Bible passages as proof for why Republican candidate James “Duke” Aiona is the only “righteous” gubernatorial candidate.”
He cites Galatians 5: 19-21, which states, “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, orgies and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life WILL NOT inherit the Kingdom of God.”
Kaauwai then asked, “Why would the Body of Christ as the representative of God’s Kingdom here on Earth promote and validate Mufi Hannemann by allowing him to speak from the pulpit platform of your church and join in this plan of deception???”
As Americans United says, “It’s clear that Kaauwai made a bad move here. He is the head of the party for ALL Republicans in Hawaii, not just Christian Republicans. Yet he tells pastors in the e-mail, “With more than 400,000 Christians in the State of Hawaii, WE are responsible no matter what the outcome of Duke’s race because we have been given the POWER and the AUTHORITY in the NAME OF JESUS!!!!”
This is strange language for a liberal democracy in the 21st century. Is the Republican candidate running for public office or for Pope?
To call this a bad move is, I think, to put it lightly. This is a catastrophic move and there should be outrage not only from the left, but from the right.
The election for a political leader – whether mayor, governor, or president – is purely a political, not religious event.
Since the Republicans have a difficult time understanding the Constitution, it is up to us to remind them. Since they have demonstrated they are immune to facts and argumentation, that leaves us the polls. Convince them with your vote; make it clear that this country was founded on the Constitutional principles they are attacking, and that you won’t let them destroy it.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.
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