Ed Brayton’s Cluelessness on Religious Tests for Office
Ed Brayton, a long-time secularist blogger and ally of Michael “Mikey” Weinstein and Chris Rodda, recently wrote a post entitled “Klingenschmitt’s Cluelessness on Religious Tests for Office.”
One of Brayton’s pastimes is keeping up with former Navy Chaplain and former Colorado state legislator Gordon Klingenschmitt, himself a prolific public speaker and writer.
Brayton quoted Klingenschmitt from a LifeSite news article in which Klingenschmitt was commenting on the decision by Tennessee state legislator Mark Green to withdraw from nomination as Secretary of the Army. Klingenschmitt said
The bully left is now openly creating an unconstitutional religious litmus test for public office. If you believe the Bible, or quote the Bible in public, they claim you are unfit for office and apply their political labels until you quit.
Brayton mocked Klingenschmitt’s statement as “absurd,” and then followed it with his own absurdity:
A religious test for office is a law that makes someone ineligible or eligible to hold a certain position based on their religious views; it’s not people criticizing someone’s religious views when they are up for a government position.
Let’s review. Brayton says
A religious test for office is a law…
That’s not necessarily true. The US Constitution says only
…no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.
The Constitution says “no religious test.” It does not say the “test” has to be a law, contrary to Brayton’s claim. Because the restriction is found in the US Constitution, the only legitimate criticism is the “test” must be an act of the government. That is, a private citizen cannot create an unconstitutional “religious test” because, by definition, a private citizen cannot violate the Constitution.
that makes someone ineligible or eligible to hold a certain position based on their religious views
With allowance for some nuance, that’s generally correct. But Brayton’s problem here is that he’s agreeing with the “clueless” Klingenschmitt, who said Mark Green was being declared “ineligible” for a position in government because of his religious views.
Finally, Brayton said
it’s not people criticizing someone’s religious views…
Again, that’s generally true — if those people are private citizens. Part of Brayton’s problem is that isn’t exactly what Klingenschmitt said.
Homosexual activists did more than “criticize” Mark Green’s views: They declared him “unfit” or “unqualified” for government office because of his religious views. Of course, because those activists are not the government, they are allowed to do that, bigoted as that may be.
However, under the Constitution the government can’t do that, which is where it starts to become an issue — and where Klingenschmitt’s statement gains steam. A few Senators parroted or expressed “concern” over the criticisms of Mark Green by homosexual activists — criticisms that were rooted in his religious beliefs.
While Republicans hold a majority in the Senate, virtually any Senator can put a “hold” on any nominee — for virtually any reason. Green ultimately withdrew his name from consideration when he felt the threat of a Senator’s “hold” would have unfairly deprived the Army of a Secretary indefinitely.
If a Senator had blocked Mark Green from becoming Secretary of the Army because of his religious views, that Senator — acting as the US government — would have been declaring an American citizen unqualified for public office based on his religious views. Even by Ed Brayton’s “clueless” definition, that would be contrary to the US Constitution. Up for debate is whether the Senators who expressed opposition to Green (based on his “views”) even before his confirmation hearing had established a de facto religious test.
Of course, to actually get there a nominee would have to suffer through and actually force the “test,” which would also cause his proposed Department to suffer, as its leadership would be held up in Congress. That was something Mark Green was unwilling to do.
Klingenschmitt’s statement may have been vaguely broad (ie, were Senators included in the “bully left”?), but Ed Brayton’s mocking criticism was more “clueless”, particularly since his hypocrisy apparently blinded him to his own cluelessness.
The issue itself, however, remains important. Ed Brayton is simply lending a voice to something activists like Mikey Weinstein and Chris Rodda have been subtly working for years: As with the man who would have led the US Army, Brayton, Rodda, and Weinstein would like to see their own “religious test” instituted in which those with certain religious beliefs — that is, Christians — are not permitted to serve in the US military. That’s not even conjecture or interpretation.
Mikey Weinstein has outright said people with certain religious beliefs shouldn’t be allowed to serve in the military. (Thus, the criticism that his “religious freedom” group is far from being one.)
Shockingly, a few US troops (some of influence) have intimated the same thing. (See US Army Chaplain (Col) Barb Sherer’s thesis (PDF), for example, which said “fundamentalist” beliefs are “incompatible” with the military. She defined “fundamentalist” as someone who believed “salvation is achieved only through faith in Jesus the Christ.”)
If the same claim were made about Jewish troops, critics would be called anti-Semites. But because their targets are Christians, their denigrations of US troops of faith are applauded.
Think a “religious test” is far from reality?
Maybe you should talk to Mark Green.