The Corner

That Krauthammer Column

I found it much more full of assertion than persuasion, Andrew. So, for example, Krauthammer concedes that the constitutional ban on religious tests blocks only governmental action, but argues that it is “meant” to teach us that we should be indifferent to the religion of candidates. Meant by whom? I understand that Krauthammer doesn’t have the space to present evidence on the point, but I am skeptical that a lot of evidence for it could be presented. Sometimes the spirit of a constitutional provision is identical to its letter.

I was not taken with Mitt Romney’s declaration that “Freedom requires religion, just as religion requires freedom,” since I thought that the thoughts were so underdeveloped that they were likely to be misunderstood. But it would not be implausible to interpret it as follows: Religion must be freely assented to for it to have value; and vibrant churches can check the power of the state, both by holding it under judgment and by maintaining loci of power and influence outside it. Whether Europe refutes Romney’s point (or what I take his point to be), as Krauthammer says, depends on whether you think that Europe’s bloated welfare states are in any way inimical to freedom. Presumably Romney thinks they are.

Then there’s Krauthammer’s conclusion. “It’s two centuries since the passage of the First Amendment and our presidential candidates still cannot distinguish establishment from free exercise.” If Krauthammer sees an establishment of religion lurking in Romney’s bromides–or, for that matter, in the political appeal of Mike Huckabee–then he’s the one who isn’t making distinctions.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.


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