To Pick a President 5 - Religion

Yes, a president's religion does and should make a difference.

There's a saying that "Personnel is policy."  That means that you can determine or control the policy that will come out of a government entity by examining or carefully choosing the person that you place there.  This is why a President's appointments get so much scrutiny, and the powerful ones must be confirmed by the Senate - they're really important, and collectively can exercise more real power than the President himself.

We've thus far examined various aspects of personal experience that you do or don't want in a President, as well as personal temperament and leadership ability.  In this article, we'll consider one of the very most fundamental elements that makes a person who they are, yet one which in recent years we've been told we're not allowed to consider: Religion.

Unconstitutional!  Or Is It?

"Aha!" comes the cry from the left.  "You hypocritical, theocratic Dominionist tyrants, you!  Don't you know that your own supposedly-beloved Constitution expressly forbids the consideration of the religion of an officeholder?"

Well, let's take a look at Article 6:

No religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

That settles that, then, we're not allowed to consider a candidate's religion.  Case closed.

Now wait a minute: Whom, exactly does the Constitution apply to?  Was it written to restrict the people - that is, you and me?

Certainly the statists and leftists would like us to read it that way, but the Founders would be scandalized at the idea.  The Constitution was never meant to restrict the American people.  Quite the opposite: it was meant to restrict and limit the government, specifically the Federal government, though later amendments extended the restrictions of the Bill of Rights to state and local governments as well.


What does this mean?  It means that there can never be a law banning members of any religion from holding political office.  We agree that there shouldn't be any such law, because we don't want government deciding who is and is not a member of which religion.

So the Constitution bars any legally-enforceable religious requirement for holding office - but it most certainly does not bar voters from considering a candidate's religious beliefs when personally deciding whether to vote for him.  The Constitution bars discrimination on the basis of race, yet millions of voters were swayed by that supposedly-irrelevant characteristic in 2008 and nobody seemed to mind.

Only a fool or an elitist ivory-tower liberal would ever claim that religion doesn't matter the way race isn't supposed to.  Six thousand years of human history shout the exact opposite: religion is the biggest motivating factor for most human beings, the spur to the biggest and fiercest armies, the most bitter hatreds and genocides, as well as motivation for the greatest and most uplifting works of art, music, and charity.

It could fairly be said that without religion, we wouldn't be human at all.  So to disregard the religious beliefs of one who would lead the most powerful nation on earth is not merely foolhardy, it is insane.

Thus, let us move on past the febrile screams of terror from the left and consider the religious beliefs which we should require of our President.

Tolerance of Disagreements

Our Founders were intimately aware of European history leading up to 1776.  Since the end of the Middle Ages, the continent of Europe was constantly racked with wars of religion and schism with various princes attempting to compel their subjects into one particular church or other by force.

The pitfalls of this technique should have been obvious: if you believe that you'll end up burning in the eternal fires of hell if you change your religious allegiance, a mere threat to your mortal body will have little effect.  American colonials were the first to figure this out.

The last thing they wanted was for America to wind up torn by the same endless violence and conflict.  That's why they were adamant about preventing an official, enforceable national religion, or about legally prohibiting otherwise qualified officials because they worshiped the wrong way.

This doesn't mean that each individual Founder believed that every other Founder's religion was equally valid; they disagreed between themselves forcefully, and in some of their writings looked forward to an afterlife where they could berate each other for picking the wrong one.

But on this earth, our Founders were unanimous in holding to every man's right to pick his own religion, even if it be wrong in their own personal opinion.  In theological terms, they all believed in "individual soul liberty": the idea that each individual has the right to make up his own mind about religion, free from coercion, and answers only to God in the afterlife should there happen to be one.  The legal term is "freedom of conscience."

The Founders' Disestablishmentarianism

In the Founders' day, there was a major world religion that did not agree with the idea of individual soul liberty: the Roman Catholic Church.  The Spanish Inquisition was not dusty history or comic relief, it was a very deadly operation that would still be executing heretics 50 years later.  Enlightenment elites  had good cause to worry about Jesuit conspiracies against non-Catholic rulers, the lust for power being non-denominational.

From Colonial through Revolutionary times, Catholics themselves were tolerated in America, but only grudgingly and with suspicion.  Indeed, New York State denied Catholics full citizenship until 1806.

For the next hundred years, American Catholics worshiped in freedom, but theirs was a breed of religion noticeably different from the official views of their church.  As late as 1898, Pope Leo XIII blasted the heresy he called "Americanism," specifically condemning the separation of church and state and calling for a Catholic church that "enjoyed the favor of the laws and the patronage of the public authority."

While there was little official discrimination against Catholics in America, there was widespread reluctance to grant them formal political power, and for very good reason: the official Head of their Church called on loyal Catholics to work to end one of the fundamental American liberties, that of freedom from religious coercion.  There was no legal bar from a Catholic running for President, but no American who valued freedom would vote for one.

Time marches on.  The Catholic Church changed.  The Spanish Inquisition ended, and even the Pope came to tolerate religious liberty.

By 1960, although many Americans were concerned, candidate John F. Kennedy could plausibly tell a convention of ministers:

I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no public official either requests or accept instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials, and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.  [emphasis added]

Kennedy was duly, albeit fraudulently, elected and, true to his word, he didn't accept instructions from the Pope.  Today, no other religions worry about losing their freedoms if a Catholic is in office.

In fact, one might argue that most modern elected "Catholics" have given up their religion entirely: Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, and many other self-proclaimed Catholics don't hesitate to promote and defend what the church they claim calls the mortal sin of abortion.

Universal Religious Tolerance...

Despite the fevered nightmares of the Daily Kos, there is no reason to believe that any major branch of Christianity, or any American elected official or candidate, has any intention of imposing a religious creed on their fellow Americans.  If any politician tried it, the first people to start throwing rocks would be other religious folks.  This is because American Christianity is famously schismatic and eager to fight over every little doctrinal difference, and the more fundamentalist the group, the more this is true.

The very most fundamental independent Christian churches practically believe that their own little church is the only one that gets everything exactly right.  This forces them to make their belief in religious liberty absolutely ironclad.

After all, what are the odds that their own pastor will be President?  No, it'll be somebody else, who by definition doesn't believe as they do.

How can they defend themselves by having a powerful patron who agrees with them?  They can't; there aren't any.  Better just to have the power of the state enforce and uphold liberty for all, just as the Founders intended.

...Except by the Intolerant

If American Christianity unanimously believes in individual soul liberty on a national basis, why is it relevant?  Because there are two groups that emphatically disagree: militant leftist atheists, and Islam.

Not all atheists are militant Christophobes any more than all Muslims are terrorists.  There is, however, a strong cohort of highly-placed atheists who are dedicated to driving religion out of public life entirely.  We see this in the ongoing and well-documented "War on Christmas"; the expulsion of prayer from schools and even from national memorial ceremonies; and of course the media ridicule and stereotyping of most Republican candidates as would-be theocrats, an accusation false on its face.

There are two types of atheists.  The sort who says, "I don't believe in God myself, but it's fine for you" is a person of tolerance.  This is in keeping with the American tradition, and is no threat to liberty.

Unfortunately, the elitist NPR sort says, "There is no God, and anyone who thinks there is is an ignorant fool and would-be dictator who has no place in public life or polite society."  This sort of bigot is no better than the Spanish Inquisitor who yearned to put all heretics to the Question.  An atheist bigot is no less a bigot and has no place in the White House.

Islam, unfortunately, is worse.  Whereas even most extreme atheists have no desire to actually kill non-atheists, the Koran specifically commands killing of non-Muslims.

Not all Muslims are murderers, of course.  Not all Christians follow all the commands of Christ, either.  The Bible states, for example, that Christians aren't "fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners."  To the extent that self-proclaimed Christians fall into any of these categories, they aren't very good Christians.

In precisely the same way, a Muslim who disregards the clear and consistent commands of his holy book isn't much of a Muslim.  Far better for him to simply admit that he's an apostate - an ex-Muslim - so we know where we all stand.  The difference is that the more Christlike (or Buddha-like) a man becomes, the better a person he is; whereas the more Mohammed-like, the more barbaric and evil.

Belief in the Right To Believe

To conclude: in order to qualify as President, an individual must not merely acknowledge, but actually believe in, the right of every other individual to worship as he or she sees fit even if it's mistaken.  All modern Christians can and do, also Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, and some atheists.  Many devout atheists reject this right; all Muslims do, to the extent that they understand their own religion and acknowledge the authority of their holy book.

Thus, Muslims and militant atheists disqualify themselves not merely from the Presidency, but from any political office in America.  After all, the oath is to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution" - which, since it explicitly forbids Congress from prohibiting the free exercise of religion, stands in opposition to their own religious beliefs.  Muslims and militant atheists can have one or the other, their beliefs or the Constitution, but not both.

Contrary to what so many of our elites would have you believe, religion is such a vitally important issue and of such direct relevance to the Presidency that it deserves two articles.  We'll continue discussing religious qualifications for the Presidency in the next article in this series.

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other articles by Petrarch or other articles on Politics.
Reader Comments

"The difference is that the more Christlike (or Buddha-like) a man becomes, the better a person he is; whereas the more Mohammed-like, the more barbaric and evil"


That's a very interesting way of putting it,

September 1, 2011 2:19 PM

Hmm, I don't think Michelle would be at all amused if Obama became more Buddha-like. No more burgers for you!

And I notice you didn't talk about being Joseph Smith-like. I guess you have to already be a real man to emulate him, if you're to have any hope of keeping all those wives satisfied...

September 1, 2011 3:08 PM

I would prefer an honest and proud atheist who understands and applies the Constitution as written and intended than a moralist of any faith who is on a sort of crusade. That said, however, since the former doesn't appear to really exist in the political arena, I'll take the latter, since he will more likely understand that there are powers greater than himself to which he must answer.

September 2, 2011 12:33 PM
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