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.

Brayton continued:

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.

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20 comments

  • Steven Schwartz

    “… criticisms that were rooted in his religious beliefs.”

    Here’s the thing: I have frequently seen, on this very site, people proclaiming that, in effect, *everything* they believe is rooted in their religious beliefs. Which makes disagreeing with them, and holding them unfit for office for *anything*, to be a so-called “religious test”.

    I will ask, since I never seem to get a straight answer to this question: If a person held a sincere religious view that black people were inferior, or should not mix with white people — religious views that were quite commonly expressed in this country not long ago — and expressed that their duty was to God before country, would you consider that a disqualification for serving in government in a role where they had to, every day, enforce equality and integration?

    (Your history and definition of what constitutes a “religious test” is also inaccurate — to quote one of the Founders and former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court: “A religious test is an act to be done, or profession to be made, relating to religion (such as partaking of the sacrament according to certain rites and forms, or declaring one’s belief of certain doctrines,) for the purpose of determining whether his religious opinions are such, that he is admissible to a publick office.” — Oliver Ellsworth.

    No one asked Mr. Green to make a profession of his faith on certain positions; he made it, and it became clear that it was in contradiction to the way he should, faithfully, execute his position. *That* was his problem.

    ” 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.”

    Oh, it’s *completely* interpretation — based on your specific interpretation of, for example, “Christian”. There’s nothing I am aware of in the views of Christian sects like Episcopalianism, or mainline Presbyterianism, that would bar one from service. Indeed, if one refrained from imposing your beliefs on other people, there’s nothing to prevent many people from service.

    (As a side note, your very division (and that of many people here) regarding “who is a Christian” is part of *why* we have the ban against religious tests; since, after all, a test saying “You must be a Christian to serve in government” would require the government to determine who was, and who wasn’t, a Christian.)

    • Anonymous Patriot

      I will give you answer, but you won’t like it:

      Firstly, your question in and of itself was a logical fallacy, one known as argumentum ad absurdum. You are using an absurd, and highly unlikely scenario to ask your question.

      But to give you a straight answer, as you have asked, no. It would not be a disqualification. What you, and every other social justice wiener seems to forget is that their is a huge difference between belief, and action. In your absurd, and highly bigoted, scenario, it would be ok for such an anti-interracial marriage man to hold a government office as long as he doesn’t use his position to attack and penalize intermarried couples.

      That is another difference between you and us. Whether you like it or not, a conservative Christian who serves in the military while believing in traditional marriage has a right to hold that belief. If he tells a fellow service-member that he doesn’t agree with gay-marriage, that is not a form of penalization or violence towards LGBT service-members. But in the twisted mind of the Left, mere disagreement is somehow equivalent to the Mai Ly Massacre. Wes Modder politely telling an LGBT service-member that he doesn’t agree with gay-marriage was a harmless act, and the resulting ordeal was a bigoted, shameful attack on his character.

      Lastly, stop using asterisks in your writings; it’s annoying and distracting.

    • @Steven Schwartz

      Oh, it’s *completely* interpretation.

      You misread the sentence. It wasn’t an “interpretation” because Mikey Weinstein explicitly said it, at this link. No interpretation was necessary. Just read what he said.

      To be fair, your use of the asterisk is a bit odd. And, contrary to your assertion, this site is perfectly outfitted for most formatting.

  • Steven Schwartz

    @Anonymous “Patriot”

    “Firstly, your question in and of itself was a logical fallacy, one known as argumentum ad absurdum. You are using an absurd, and highly unlikely scenario to ask your question.”

    Actually, it’s part of the time-honored reductio ad absurdum, which is *not* a logical fallacy — it’s a way of showing that the offered principle, if followed, leads to absurd results.

    “What you, and every other social justice wiener seems to forget is that their is a huge difference between belief, and action. ”

    So, if someone attempted to pass legislation to enact their beliefs, and explicitly said that it was their duty to enact their viewpoint, would *that* dissuade you? Since that is what Green has done, just as an example.

    “Whether you like it or not, a conservative Christian who serves in the military while believing in traditional marriage has a right to hold that belief. ”

    Very true.

    “If he tells a fellow service-member that he doesn’t agree with gay-marriage, that is not a form of penalization or violence towards LGBT service-members.”

    That depends on things like the power dynamic involved, and other factors. Similarly, if a person were to tell a Christian that he thought they were heretic followers and a disgrace to Judaism, that would not be OK. Nor would it be OK for a fellow service-member to tell them that they were morons following an imaginary sky daddy — especially if, in any of those cases, the person telling them that was of higher rank, or in any kind of authority over them.

    “Lastly, stop using asterisks in your writings; it’s annoying and distracting.”

    I’ll use what I please — and this blog doesn’t allow for underlining or, as far as I can tell, italicization.

  • Steven Schwartz

    @JD

    Minor detail: Your link isn’t to a quote; it’s to your edits. Which, frankly, given the degree of dubious editing I’ve already seen here, I don’t trust out of context. Do you have a direct citation?

    Also, frankly, I disagree with Mr. Weinstein on this one — up to the point where, as I’ve said, religious views prevent an honest oath to uphold the Constitution, as, for example, Rushdoony-esque Dominionists would.

    As for the formatting: It doesn’t show in the text entry box, and isn’t documented. We’ll see if this works, but if you’re going to make a deal of it, perhaps documentation is good. :)

    And do you have any response to the broader points about religious tests?

    • @Steven Schwartz
      This site strives to always include primary sources. All you have to do is read and follow the links. If you follow the link above and read the article and its links, you’ll find Mikey Weinstein saying those words in his own voice.

  • Steven Schwartz

    @JD Well, your link goes to a show that, somewhere in it, might have (since I am not prepared to listen to an hour of Sekulow) the quote you claim — though it’s from the interview of the day before. :))

    Do you have any comment on the broader point, or are you ceding the ground?

  • Steven Schwartz,
    Regardlesss of a person’s views, as long as they actually enforce the policy and judge subordinates based purely on performance, they should be allowed to “serve openly.” I suspect every person commenting on this blog would agree with that general sentiment.

    Brig Gen Goodwin’s career success is a perfect example. Many of her superiors undoubtedly disagreed with her lifestyle choices along the way, most for religious reasons, but they judged her performance. Period. And she was promoted as a result, often upon the recommendation of those who would adamantly oppose her life choices.

    I suspect that many left-leaning religionists have likewise judged known fundamentalists, such that their subordinates’ records properly reflect their superior performance, and vice versa.

    Might there be exceptions to this rule from people across the ideological spectrum? Sure. But those exceptions would prove the rule, and commanders (via the Equal Opportunity Office, etc.) would eventually help see them to the door.

    The military is chock full of people who disagree with their superiors/subordinates, yet somehow it thrives as a meritocracy. The situation for which you troll just doesn’t happen as you think it must, that is, that those holding views you find objectionable are incapable of giving others fair treatment. What I find objectionable is your apparent need to police the thoughts and speech, especially religious speech, of others. I hope I’ve misjudged you in this regard.

    • Steven Schwartz

      “Regardlesss of a person’s views, as long as they actually enforce the policy and judge subordinates based purely on performance, they should be allowed to “serve openly.””

      By and large, I agree; but I also think that people can be judged on what they’ve done before. And it’s especially important when dealing with positions that are above the EOO — that, indeed, would be in charge of said office.

      It’s why I don’t have problems with fundamentalists in leadership positions who don’t show unfair bias, or show bias against, say, LGBTQ folks. But I do have problems with someone with an established legislative and stated history of bias, and a clear statement that he views his biases as his duty to enforce, being put in charge of a large chunk of the military.

      “What I find objectionable is your apparent need to police the thoughts and speech, especially religious speech, of others.”

      Here’s the thing: we have to be careful around speech, because it’s often the only real indicator we have. For example: “Oh, look, Sgt. Friendofdorothy has bad reviews from his senior officer — clearly, he’s a bad soldier!” when, in fact, the sergeant’s superior doesn’t like LGBTQ folk, and lets that bias seep in. How do you prove that? It’s extremely difficult to do — but a superior’s words can be part of that proof.

      Similarly, if people are judged on their “spiritual fitness”, and that fitness is judged by someone who believes that Christianity — especially a narrow definition thereof — is spiritual fitness, what do you think the results will be?

      I guess that’s the rub; if you wear your faith on your sleeve, and make a big deal of it, you have to expect people to judge you in part on it; and when that faith carries with it the impression of bias, you don’t get to complain that no one should pay attention to that, and still wear said faith on your sleeve.

      Does that make sense? Freedom of speech is not freedom of speech without any consequence, no matter how much we would like it to be.

  • sanford sklansky

    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.

    Utter nonsense. Let’s try a slightly different example. Let’s say a president nominated a Muslim who believes that the Constitution should be replaced by Sharia law. Would [redacted] still believe that if a Senator refused to confirm that nominee because of that religious belief, that would be an unconstitutional religious test? Of course he wouldn’t. But legally, the two situations are precisely the same. A Senator is an elected official and they can choose to reject a nominee for any reason whatsoever without creating a religious test for office.

    I’d be willing to be that if you asked [redacted] how we should interpret the Constitution, he would probably answer “originalism” (though I doubt he really understands what that means, only that it’s the standard conservative answer to that question). So how would an originalist view the meaning of the No Religious Tests clause? By looking at the historical context, which is that many states had constitutions that required that one be a Christian, a Protestant, a Trinitarian or some similar language, in order to be eligible for public office. The framers of the Constitution said you cannot do that for elections to the national government.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/dispatches/2017/05/16/theres-reason-isnt-christian-legal-scholar/ Think Ed has you there

    Edited by Admin.

    • @sanford sklansky
      The only thing Ed Brayton has is a reading problem. Who said anything about Senators voting or “refus[ing] to confirm”? No such thing is ever mentioned above. His rebuttal is against an argument not made.

      Whether the President nominates Mark Green, Keith Ellison, or Mikey Weinstein, the principle remains the same. If the Senate denies “any office or public trust” as a result of the nominee’s religion, that body’s conduct is contrary to the Constitution.

  • Steven Schwartz

    “If the Senate denies “any office or public trust” as a result of the nominee’s religion, that body’s conduct is contrary to the Constitution.”

    You asked “who said anything about Senators voting”…well, in the above statement, you effectively did; because refusing to confirm is a way the Senate can deny said office. So stop trying to play nitpicking games about “I didn’t say this particular thing, so his entire point is invalid!”, unless you want people to believe that all you have is hairsplitting.

    No; the Senate cannot apply a religious test, as embodied in the legislation and/or constitutions of many of the founding states, for a position. That is not the same as “any religious belief is sacrosanct, and may not be considered disqualifying”, which appears to be the position you’re holding.

    Green could believe whatever he wanted. By making it clear from his history that he was likely to put his beliefs above the laws, his actions would have disqualified him in many people’s eyes from holding the position. That’s not a religious test of belief.

    If Green had come out and said “I believe this, but in the interests of the country, I will subordinate my beliefs to the law”, and not already had a legislative history of acting in ways making that statement dubiously trustworthy, he might have gotten approved. But, instead, he made it clear that he felt it was his religious duty to subordinate the law to his beliefs.

    • @Steven Schwartz

      You appear to be misattributing. The words “refusing to confirm” were Ed Brayton’s.

      The article above deals with only one thing: The ability of a single Senator to place a Senate-wide “hold” on a nominee. That is not remotely the same thing as a Senator voting or declining to confirm a nominee. Brayton’s entire argument was against a fictional position.

      Words have meaning, your attempt to muddle them notwithstanding.

  • Steven Schwartz

    “Words have meaning, your attempt to muddle them notwithstanding.”

    Which is why I quote your later statement that: “If the Senate denies “any office or public trust” as a result of the nominee’s religion, that body’s conduct is contrary to the Constitution.”

    You broadened your claim to match the one that Ed said you were holding, regardless of where you began. (Which reminds me; how a Senator putting a hold on a nominee is unconstitutional, but voting against them for the exact same reasons is not…well, you lose me there somewhere. :))

    I am taking your words, as quoted above, to mean what you said; if you don’t mean them, perhaps you should withdraw them, and explain (if you can) why somehow putting a hold on someone is unconstitutional, but voting against them (and perhaps defeating them) is not.

    And then you can get to the argument about the difference between “beliefs” (not subject to test) and the likelihood of action (subject to test) — since the documents from the Founders make it clear that it’s a matter of articles of faith that cannot be tested for or against, rather than specific (and, in this case, demonstrated) actions and statements of intent.

    • @Steven Schwartz

      You broadened your claim…

      Nope. Same claim. You’re confusing yourself. In just one example, you are conflating “Senate” and “Senator.” Don’t feel bad, but next time try to read for what the article says, not what you think it says.

      Your continued attempts to assert control continue to be amusing.

  • Steven Schwartz

    @JD Your continued attempts to be right at all costs, ignoring points in favor of tossing out flimflam, are not really amusing any more.

    You said, and I quote: “If the Senate denies “any office or public trust” as a result of the nominee’s religion, that body’s conduct is contrary to the Constitution.”

    Now, you may say that wasn’t what you said at first — but it’s what you’re saying now. Or did you mean to say “If a Senator blocks “any office or public trust” as a result…” — if so, then do correct yourself.

    Otherwise, you were talking about the Senate in your response, no matter what the original article said. In other words, you broadened your claim in your response — or else Ed was responding correctly to what you said.

    Take your pick; but it has to be one or the other if you’re being honest.

    • @Steven Schwartz
      Your response falls somewhere between gibberish and nonsense. This is a final effort, purely for your edification:

      Ed Brayton claimed the article above took issue with individual Senators choosing their vote on a nominee. (Read it again. That’s precisely what he says.) In fact, the article says nothing of the sort — it never even uses the word “vote” or even “confirm”. Rather, the article presents the potential problem of a Senator putting a “hold” on a nominee. Under current Senate procedures, if even a single Senator places a hold, the Senate, as a legislative body of the US government, does not take up the nomination.

      Thus, a single Senator placing a “hold” can effectively act as the Senate body and deny a “public trust” to a nominee (under current Senate procedures). That is the reality Mark Green faced, and the explicit reason he gave for withdrawing his name.

      And, again, if the US government used the religion of the nominee as a qualification for office, it would run afoul of the Constitution.

      This was all already said above.

  • Steven Schwartz

    @JD I am truly impressed with the level of detail you are going to in order to remain theoretically correct.

    Your remarks can be read as you read them; it’s certainly not the way they *appeared*, but thank you for clarifying what you actually *meant* as opposed to what you said.

    Of course, it’s still largely irrelevant, because the religious test clause does not apply here, for reasons you’ve repeatedly refused to address, instead going into ever more detail about whether or not you were being precisely understood, despite what you said.

    “And, again, if the US government used the religion of the nominee as a qualification for office, it would run afoul of the Constitution.”

    So: if a judge said they, because of their religion, was pro-choice, and a hold was placed on their nomination for that reason, that would also be unconstitutional? Do please inform the Republican party, roadblock central for nominations, of that fact.

    Green engaged in actions that made it clear he was unsuitable for the role; the religious test, as indicated by the citation above, was specifically about articles of faith.

    • robertleewasahero

      You mean Democratic Party. They roadblock everything. They even tried to roadblock LtGen. HR McMaster (thank God those commie pukes failed).

  • Steven Schwartz

    @robertlee

    No, I mean the Republican Party, who engaged in a historically unprecendented level of obstruction of Obama’s nominees, especially judicial nominees — culminating in denying Merrick Garland even a hearing.

    And trust me; I know communists; and the Democratic Party isn’t communist to anyone who actually knows what the word means, instead of using it as an insult for someone they don’t like. Just as most modern Republicans aren’t fascists, and people calling them that is inaccurate and unhelpful.

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