Article VI, Section 3 of the United States Constitution mandates:
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.
Notwithstanding what appears to be an unusually clear constitutional provision, some are demanding that a religious test be imposed on the appointment of Supreme Court Justices. This is not, however, the much-disparaged religious test of conservatives, but rather a demand that an atheist be appointed to the Supreme Court.
Even moreso than the unconstitutionality of such a demand, the insistence that a Supreme Court Justice adopt an attitude of open hatred and contempt towards religious believers is a dangerous indulgence. Yes, it is true that some religious believers push their beliefs too far into the realm of public policy. But to extend from that unfortunate reality the claim that the Supreme Court should openly act to force religious belief into a secretive and shameful underground practice is going way too far. Indeed, the author of the column asks that religious expression be forced into hiding, much in the same way as homosexuality was during the darkest times of the gay rights movement:
Religion plays far too influential a role in our political and civic life as is. I personally don’t care what sort of superstition makes you sleep better at night, but I think we would all benefit if you left it behind closed doors and kept it as far away as possible from public policy. How about a policy of don’t ask, don’t tell?
I would certainly have no objection to an agnostic or a non-religious Supreme Court Justice. But to demand “representation” for an aggressively atheist and anti-religion Supreme Court Justice seems no different than demanding a Supreme Court Justice be openly racist. Hatred towards a particular group should never be a prerequisite for office in a liberal democracy. It shouldn’t even be tolerated. This is especially true of the Supreme Court, which is constantly presented with cases brought by both aggressive pro-religionists seeking to enshrine religion as policy (think the Alabama case about the Ten Commandments in the court house) and aggressive anti-religionists seeking to transform separation into a de facto ban on religious expression (think of the recent California case demanding that a cross be removed so that it will be neither on public land nor visible from public land). Both extremes are in violation of the basic constitutional principle. Atheists don’t get a pass on the second part of the First Amendment (free expression) any more than religionists get a pass on the first (no establishment).
And the sooner that more atheists get the distinction between non-religion and anti-religion, the sooner their movement will stop shooting itself in its political foot.
UPDATE: Allahpundit at Hot Air (an avowed atheist), asks the obvious question that I missed:
Here’s the real issue: Wouldn’t the author’s agenda be served just as well by sticking a liberal of whatever faith on the Court, as will surely end up happening? You’ll get the same results as you would with Richard Dawkins writing opinions, except you won’t have to go through the headache of a confirmation hearing filled with questions like, “Judge, what exactly is your view of the resurrection?”
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