"US Capitol" by Andrew Bossi / CC BY-SA 3.0

Senators Can and Must Ask About Nominees’ Religious Beliefs

Feb 8, 2019

By Andrew L. Seidel

The old rule tells us that politics and religion are not to be mentioned in polite conversation. In an effort to ease nomination hearings for some of President Trump’s more extreme nominees, conservatives—and at least one Democrat—are seeking to graft this rule of etiquette onto the Constitution.

The new political attack is just that. And it’s inelegant: If a senator mentions a nominee’s religion in anything other than glowing terms—even if the nominee has written extensively about how religion influences their work in regressive ways—that senator is accused of religious bigotry. The goal? Suffocate hard questions to get more conservative religious officials in office.

The political assault is billed as upholding the ban on religious tests in Article VI of the Constitution. But not only does it do nothing of the kind, there’s good reason to think Article VI actually requires these questions.

When Sen. Sanders questioned a nominee who once wrote that Muslims “have a deficient theology,” Sanders unknowingly inaugurated “the anti-religious crusade of the left.” People took notice—attacking Sanders as a religious bigot was effective.

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