The very existence of the Trump Presidency has been deemed a “Constitutional Crisis” by Democrats who have flocked toward the podium to condemn each action of the presidency as “unconstitutional.” The word has been used so frequently over the past six months that it has begun to ring hollow, a word which ought to serve as an alarm to tyrannical beginnings has been reduced to little more than a partisan whine.
In the overzealousness of Trump detractors to wield the charge of “unconstitutional,” we have ignored a true constitutional crisis unfolding before us.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, England frequently relied upon “religious tests” for office. The “Test Acts” enacted in the late 1600’s required individuals to denounce their Catholic faith under oath, proclaiming, “I do declare that I do believe that there is not any transubstantiation in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, or in the elements of the bread and wine, at or after the consecration thereof by any person whatsoever.”
Perturbed by this infringement upon human rights, the Founding Fathers sought to prohibit discrimination upon the basis of religion, most notably in their establishment of the First Amendment, which ensures American citizens protection from any law “prohibiting the free expression” of religion.
Less frequently discussed, but equally important, is Article VI, which reads in part, “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” Multiple times now in the confirmation of Trump appointees, Democratic senators have ignored this protection ensured by the constitution in order to pursue decidedly partisan ends.
They haven’t been subtle about it.
The late Father Richard John Neuhaus once wrote that in the opinion of The New York Times, “The only good Catholic is a bad Catholic.” Today, certain Democratic senators might find themselves in agreement. Earlier this week, during the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals confirmation hearing of Amy Coney Barrett, Senator Dianne Feinstein criticized the nominee’s devotion to her faith, saying to Barrett, “When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for for years in this country.”
The religious test applied here by could not have been more clear – an egregious affront not only of the Constitution, but of the Catholic faith. By claiming of Barrett that “the dogma lives loudly within you,” Senator Feinstein not only criticized Barrett for being Catholic, but she suggested that the very practice of Catholicism, the adherence to Catholic dogma, somehow renders an individual incapable of serving his or her country in public office.
To Senator Feinstein, Barrett was deemed the worst kind of Catholic- a practicing Catholic. Senator Dick Durbin continued along this line of questioning, demanding to know of Barrett whether she is an “orthodox Catholic.”
In fact, Barrett’s hearing wasn’t the first time a Democratic senator flaunted their Anti-Catholic and anti-Christian bigotry in applying an unconstitutional religious test for office.
This past June, former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders attacked Russell Vought, Trump’s nominee to be Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget, for Vought’s adherence to orthodox Christian doctrine, specifically his belief in the “centrality of Jesus Christ in salvation.”
In what has become Sanders’ calling-card, he took his extremist political inclinations a step further than his colleagues on the left, using his religious test to not only declare Vought unfit to hold public office due to his Christian faith, but going so far as to claim that Vought is “not someone who this country is supposed to be about.”
How far we have strayed from John Adams’ belief that “The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God,” or of George Washington’s consideration of the practice of religion as an “indispensable support” of society.
As religious tests for office return to the Democratic repertoire we witness the emergence of a true constitutional crisis. The establishment of a religious test for office is as bigoted, discriminatory, and explicitly unconstitutional as they come.
That the actions of Feinstein and Sanders have been covered as little more than partisan disagreements shows plainly the burgeoning attitude of the Democratic party toward orthodox Christians and Catholics, once privately held, now publicly voiced. When Saint Thomas More (photo above) was led to his execution, he is rumored to have said, “I die the king’s faithful servant, but God’s first.” Today, in the establishment of government as religion itself, the choice has become somehow more ominous: serve either as the King’s good servant or God’s. Both will not do.
Antonin Scalia is the Founder and Senior Thomas More Fellow of The Campus Conservative. He is a fourth year student at Rhodes College, in Memphis, TN.
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