Bench Memos

Law & the Courts

“The Dogma Lives Loudly Within You” (Part 2)

In a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee following the Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination hearing, Christopher Eisgruber, President of Princeton University, urged the Committee to “refrain from interrogating nominees about the religious or spiritual foundations of their jurisprudential views.”  A constitutional law scholar who clerked for Justice John Paul Stevens, Eisgruber argued that Article VI’s prohibition on religious tests was a “bold endorsement of religious freedom.” Eisengruber explained that “[b]ecause religious belief is constitutionally irrelevant to the qualifications for a federal judgeship, the Senate should not interrogate any nominee about those beliefs.”

Nearly 16 months later, Senate Democrats persist in questioning nominees about their Christian faith.  At its core, the questioning reveals the anti-religious bigotry motivating the modern day Democrats.  The inescapable irony is that some of the great lions of the Democratic Party, such as John F. Kennedy and Al Smith, were once victims of the very same bigotry that their party now perpetuates.

So why are today’s Democrats so suspicious of Christians?  The unfortunate truth is that progressives no longer believe there is a place for people of genuine faith in public service. This stands in sharp contrast to the Founders, who universally recognized the role that religion plays in undergirding our civil society and freedom (although not all of the founders were men of faith themselves).

Borrowing from Alexis de Tocqueville’s observations in Democracy in America,author and intellectual Os Guinness “the golden triangle of freedom” as consisting of these three mutually reinforcing values, each fully dependent on the others: freedom, virtue, and faith.  Guinness argues that freedom requires virtue, virtue requires faith, and faith requires freedom.

James Madison illuminated the concept in his speech to the Ratifying Convention on June 20, 1788, asking:  “Is there no virtue among us?”  Assuming the answer, Madison continued, “If there be not, we are in a wretched situation. No theoretical checks—no form of government can render us secure. To suppose that any form of government can secure liberty or happiness without virtue in the people is a chimerical idea.”

The modern Democratic Party has lost sight of the essential role that faith plays in guaranteeing virtue and thus our continuing freedom.  Rather than safeguarding the Constitution’s robust protections for religious liberty, Senate Democrats are unabashedly grilling nominees about their church memberships and affiliations.

Their message?  If we don’t like what you believe, we think you are unfit for judicial service.

Sure sounds like a religious test to me.

Link: “The Dogma Lives Loudly Within You” (Part 1)

Carrie Severino is chief counsel and policy director to the Judicial Crisis Network.

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