Western Liberals and Religious Tests for High Office

“No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” In these few words included in Article VI, Section III of the Constitution of the United States of America, lay the foundation for the defense of religious belief as no barrier for holding high political office. This explicit ban on religious tests as prerequisite for high political office continues to be one of the great gifts of the American founding to the world and freedom. Many countries in the West have adopted similar constitutional or statutory language. However, our “modern” society led by Western liberal forces has swept away this tradition, creating an informal religious test and thus a barrier for high political office.

The latest example of Western liberal imposition of a religious test, particularly regarding orthodox religious belief, was an interview by BBC presenter Jo Coburn of practicing Catholic MP Jacob Rees-Mogg. If you listen to the questions by the interviewer, you would think the Catholic emancipation of 1829 in the United Kingdom hadn’t occurred. But the line of questioning was clear -- could Mr. Rees-Mogg occupy high office with such views on abortion and gay marriage which are not the accepted views of Western liberals?

We see examples like this one every day in interviews and debates in which politicians of the left and right participate. This interrogation is just the newest example of traditional religious politicians being tested if their views conflict with the established views of modern society. In the case of the West, this established view is based on liberal Christianity being the acceptable face in the public sphere of Christian teachings.

Liberal Christianity is not a modern phenomenon but, in the West, it has come to dominate the establishment, ranging from politicians to the media and even Christian denominations. This type of Christianity believes that scripture must be interpreted according to modern perspectives. But also it bases its actions on the belief that adopting a more modern view of Christian teachings will halt the decline of congregations in mainline churches. However, as studies suggest, this hypothesis is wrong, as more theological conservative congregations seem to be growing or maintaining their size as opposed to theologically liberal churches. Yet this dubious hypothesis and the teachings of liberal Christianity are used against conservative politicians who don’t favor abortion, gay marriage, and left-leaning social policies to find ways to label them extremist and thus create the narrative that they aren’t fit to hold high office.  

Conservatives who defend Christian principles are attacked by leftists -- many of them not Christian themselves -- who accuse them of not being Christian because their policies do not fit  the accepted view of Christianity based around dumbing-down of the scriptural teachings on social issues and moving to the forefront the teachings regarding economic issues.

The commonplace argument involving the preferential treatment of the poor is consequently the most widely used against conservatives. But if we compare the left’s alternative policies with those who support free-market policies, who is really helping the poor? Since the adoption of many free-market policies the world has seen an unprecedented decrease in poverty. Free-market policies being spearheaded around the world are the engines of getting people out of poverty.

There is no contradiction in supporting free markets and being a Christian, as Father Robert Sirico, the Acton Institute, Michael Novak, and a host of others have shown. Conservative Christians oppose the economic policies of the left not because we don’t care about the poor but simply we believe that their policies are detrimental to the poor.

Yet, the modern left wants everyone who wishes to enter public life to pass its religious test -- that they maintain the views of liberal Christianity. They want candidates for political office to be cheerleaders for abortion rights, gay marriage, that we prevent voluntary exchanges in the market or we violate property rights. They want a kind indirect state religion, one of liberal Christianity based around their notion of tolerance, which in the ends means tolerance of only their views. Many have thought that the fight against the religious test was won centuries ago with the creation of America, but in the United States and in the West, it appears that Western liberalism wants everyone vying for public office to face a liberal inquisition.

Ojel L. Rodriguez AKC (@ojelrodriguez) is a freelance writer and graduate from King’s College London.

“No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” In these few words included in Article VI, Section III of the Constitution of the United States of America, lay the foundation for the defense of religious belief as no barrier for holding high political office. This explicit ban on religious tests as prerequisite for high political office continues to be one of the great gifts of the American founding to the world and freedom. Many countries in the West have adopted similar constitutional or statutory language. However, our “modern” society led by Western liberal forces has swept away this tradition, creating an informal religious test and thus a barrier for high political office.

The latest example of Western liberal imposition of a religious test, particularly regarding orthodox religious belief, was an interview by BBC presenter Jo Coburn of practicing Catholic MP Jacob Rees-Mogg. If you listen to the questions by the interviewer, you would think the Catholic emancipation of 1829 in the United Kingdom hadn’t occurred. But the line of questioning was clear -- could Mr. Rees-Mogg occupy high office with such views on abortion and gay marriage which are not the accepted views of Western liberals?

We see examples like this one every day in interviews and debates in which politicians of the left and right participate. This interrogation is just the newest example of traditional religious politicians being tested if their views conflict with the established views of modern society. In the case of the West, this established view is based on liberal Christianity being the acceptable face in the public sphere of Christian teachings.

Liberal Christianity is not a modern phenomenon but, in the West, it has come to dominate the establishment, ranging from politicians to the media and even Christian denominations. This type of Christianity believes that scripture must be interpreted according to modern perspectives. But also it bases its actions on the belief that adopting a more modern view of Christian teachings will halt the decline of congregations in mainline churches. However, as studies suggest, this hypothesis is wrong, as more theological conservative congregations seem to be growing or maintaining their size as opposed to theologically liberal churches. Yet this dubious hypothesis and the teachings of liberal Christianity are used against conservative politicians who don’t favor abortion, gay marriage, and left-leaning social policies to find ways to label them extremist and thus create the narrative that they aren’t fit to hold high office.  

Conservatives who defend Christian principles are attacked by leftists -- many of them not Christian themselves -- who accuse them of not being Christian because their policies do not fit  the accepted view of Christianity based around dumbing-down of the scriptural teachings on social issues and moving to the forefront the teachings regarding economic issues.

The commonplace argument involving the preferential treatment of the poor is consequently the most widely used against conservatives. But if we compare the left’s alternative policies with those who support free-market policies, who is really helping the poor? Since the adoption of many free-market policies the world has seen an unprecedented decrease in poverty. Free-market policies being spearheaded around the world are the engines of getting people out of poverty.

There is no contradiction in supporting free markets and being a Christian, as Father Robert Sirico, the Acton Institute, Michael Novak, and a host of others have shown. Conservative Christians oppose the economic policies of the left not because we don’t care about the poor but simply we believe that their policies are detrimental to the poor.

Yet, the modern left wants everyone who wishes to enter public life to pass its religious test -- that they maintain the views of liberal Christianity. They want candidates for political office to be cheerleaders for abortion rights, gay marriage, that we prevent voluntary exchanges in the market or we violate property rights. They want a kind indirect state religion, one of liberal Christianity based around their notion of tolerance, which in the ends means tolerance of only their views. Many have thought that the fight against the religious test was won centuries ago with the creation of America, but in the United States and in the West, it appears that Western liberalism wants everyone vying for public office to face a liberal inquisition.

Ojel L. Rodriguez AKC (@ojelrodriguez) is a freelance writer and graduate from King’s College London.