Princeton University’s President on the Democrats’ Religious Tests for Public Office

I saw this today at Alan Jacobs’s blog Snakes and Ladders:

I write, as a university president and a constitutional scholar with expertise on religious freedom and judicial appointments, to express concern about questions addressed to Professor Amy Barrett during her confirmation hearings and to urge that the Committee on the Judiciary refrain from interrogating nominees about the religious or spiritual foundations of their jurisprudential views. Article VI of the United States Constitution provides explicitly that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” This bold endorsement of religious freedom was among the original Constitution’s most pathbreaking provisions. The Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in Torcaso v. Watkins (1961), holding that the First and Fourteenth Amendments render this principle applicable to state offices and that it protects non-believers along with believers of all kinds, is among the greatest landmarks in America’s jurisprudence of religious freedom. Article VI’s prohibition of religious tests is a critical guarantee of equality and liberty, and it is part of what should make all of us proud to be Americans.

By prohibiting religious tests, the Constitution makes it impermissible to deny any person a national, state, or local office on the basis of their religious convictions or lack thereof. Because religious belief is constitutionally irrelevant to the qualifications for a federal judgeship, the Senate should not interrogate any nominee about those beliefs. I believe, more specifically, that the questions directed to Professor Barrett about her faith were not consistent with the principle set forth in the Constitution’s “no religious test” clause.



Here is Al Franken:

I should add that the Blackstone Legal Fellowship has an advisory board that includes law professors from  University of Texas, University of Nebraska, Harvard (Mary Ann Glendon), Princeton (Robert George), and Notre Dame.

Here is Diane Feinstein:

Here is Dick Durbin:

And let’s not forget Bernie Sanders from earlier this year:

Here is Emma Green’s reporting on this at The Atlantic.

3 thoughts on “Princeton University’s President on the Democrats’ Religious Tests for Public Office

  1. I spoke to a couple of Christian pastors who are friends of mine and they feel that I’m on strong ground. When they interview for pastor positions, either as interviewer or interviewee, the person being interviewed is expected to answer questions as to how their faith is reflected in their actions, so as to evaluate whether that person is a right fit for the church community.

    As to, ” No actual Christian has ever advocated forced sterilizations, placing Jewish into ghettos and the like,” you might to delve into some actual history, or for that matter search out the recent rhetoric of the most radical and zealous of the Christian leaders here and around the world. As one historical example, in the first half of the 20th century in America there was active mainstream Christian support of eugenics, including forced sterilization. Of course, as is always the case, there were Christians that active fought against this.

    After reading John’s post I looked into the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a self-professing Christian advocacy group, and sure enough they actually advocated in defense of government-sponsored sterilization of transsexual individuals (in Europe). This was at the heart of Franken’s inquiry.

    If you feel that this information about the ADF is not true and you can provide valid refutation then please do and I will re-evaluate my position.

    No one of significance or relevance is trying to keep Christians from participating in government in America. I would suggest taking a tally of congress to see that a vast majority are Christian (I would also point out that Dick Durbin is a professing Catholic as clearly stated in the video). Our last president and Vice President were Christians….and the ones before that…and on and on.

    America is safe for Christians.

    Also too, by “Feinstein, Sanders and their ilk,” are you referring to their Jewishness? That would be awkward.


  2. The ludicrous assertions made by “jimmiraybob” are facially wrong. No actual Christian has ever advocated forced sterilizations, placing Jewish into ghettos and the like.

    Feinstein, Sanders and their ilk seek to prohibit Christians from sitting on the bench, Constitution be damned. It has more to do with their depraved desire to keep amoral decisions that permit the murder of babies for personal convenience on the books, and to further erode the actual liberty and smaller government for which Christians are more likely to stand.


  3. I’m no university president or constitutional scholar with expertise on religious freedom and judicial appointments, but I think that Princeton University President Eisgruber’s concerns are not substantiated based on Franken’s and Durbin’s probing questioning. There is no religious test being enacted. They are examining the limits of actions based on religious conviction that would possibly infringe on other citizen’s rights and freedoms. It’s worth noting that being a faithful Christian is one thing but that being a faithful Christian that advocates involuntary sterilization based on those religious convictions is another. And believing that forced sterilization is the purview of governments is even more pernicious. Probing association with organizations with a history of advocating these hateful and hurtful actions is fair game. Probing written legal opinions that could hold prejudicial implications is fair game.

    What about ghettoes for Jews, slavery or killing witches and infidels when based on deeply and sincerely held religious convictions? What about withholding medications from severely ill children when based on deeply and sincerely held religious convictions? Would anyone really want someone who was being considered to head up the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and who, based on deeply and sincerely held religious convictions, did not believe in microbes and germ theory or in vaccinations or medical intervention in general?

    There are limits. Aren’t there? Franken and Durbin were performing due diligence as per their responsibilities of office and the Constitution and the law to provide equal protection to all of their constituents in a religiously pluralistic society. Going off the deep end about religious persecution is not warranted and only indicates a preference for exceptionalism and a free pass for possible persecution of others outside of the tribe.


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