Thursday, November 29, 2007

Religious Tests

Mitt Romney is reported to have rejected the idea of appointing a Muslim to the cabinet if he's elected president.  Does this violate Article 3, Section 6 of the Constition, ". . . no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States"?

1 comment:

Hercules Mulligan said...

I don't think such would be a violation of the Constitution, and the Religious test ban. Alexander Hamilton was one of those delegates at the Constitutional Convention who supported the "religious test ban," and yet, in a letter to John Jay dated May 1800, Hamilton stated that any means used to prevent "an atheist in religion" (Hamilton was probably referring to Jefferson) from becoming President would be perfectly constitutional. So, I don't think that the in "religious test ban," the govt was prevented from considering one's denomination as a qualification/disqualification for office, not their "religion."

In the old America, "religion" was defined as a general reference to Christianity, and only rarely to all religions generally (see Noah Webster's 1828 Dictionary, under "religion"). Today, religion no longer is a general allusion to Christianity, but to all religions in general. Hence, this misunderstanding of the "religious test ban" of the Constitution.

At one of the state ratifying Conventions, one of the delegates, Samuel Johnston, had this to say:

“It is apprehended that Jews, Mahometans (Muslims), pagans, etc., may be elected to high offices under the government of the United States. Those who are Mahometans, or any others who are not professors of the Christian religion, can never be elected to the office of President or other high office, [unless] first the people of America lay aside the Christian religion altogether, it may happen. Should this unfortunately take place, the people will choose such men as think as they do themselves.
[Elliot’s Debates, Vol. IV, pp 198-199, Governor Samuel Johnston, July 30, 1788 at the North Carolina Ratifying Convention]

The basis of law (and America was founded as a government of law) is laid in the "general principles of Christianity," to quote John Adams, and so to put someone in public office who does not recognize the basis of our law and our Constitution would be wrong, for you would be compelling that person to lie when he takes his oath to support the Constitution.

Even though I doubt Mitt Romney would make a good President, nevertheless, he would not be violating the Constitution by refusing to appoint a Muslim to office.