The left is taking umbrage at suggestions that Senate Democrats are imposing a de facto religious litmus test on the confirmation of Alabama Attorney General William Pryor, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Carolyn Kuhl, and other well-qualified federal judicial nominees of President George W. Bush stalled in the Senate—a test prohibited by Article 6 of the Constitution.
Ironically, the litmus test used to block Pryor for his “deeply held” beliefs is being imposed by some Democratic senators on the Judiciary Committee who are Catholics themselves. And when non-Catholic senators like Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) have the courage to speak out against this bias, they’re mocked by some in Congress and the news media.
But what the Left fails to understand is that to be Catholic is not to go down the line at the cafeteria, picking and choosing among doctrinal principles. Being Catholic is to share in a complete set of beliefs, including the view that abortion is gravely immoral, a binding principle for Catholics. That is what Pryor believes.
When the Left decries Committee for Justice “Catholics Need Not Apply” ads (see page 11)—which ran recently in Rhode Island and Maine and highlight the Democrats’ religion gap—as nothing but a partisan tactic to win the Catholic vote, it ignores voices echoing this sentiment as diverse as Denver’s Archbishop Charles Chaput; Carl Anderson of the Knights of Columbus; Boston’s former Democratic mayor, Ray Flynn; and the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations.
In fact, Democrats’ introduction of an ideological abortion litmus test into the judicial confirmation process is an obvious surrogate for an unconstitutional religious test, which began with their campaign against a Baptist federal judicial nominee, Federal District Court Judge Charles Pickering of Mississippi.
We must preserve what the Founding Fathers envisioned: an American democracy with a religious polity and secular government. Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville observed this special quality of American society in 1831 in his timeless snapshot Democracy in America: “Religion in America takes no direct part in the government of society, but it must be regarded as the first of their political institutions…. I am certain that they [Americans] hold it to be indispensable to the maintenance of republican institutions.”
Observing modern-day America, leading Jewish thinker Dennis Praeger wrote in a 1999 Wall Street Journal op-ed that unlike the European experience, America’s Christianity, “a uniquely tolerant form of religious expression, has been the conduit of American democracy. It has created a uniquely secular government and a religion-based society.”
That faith, and the principled thinking that comes with it, is a valuable part of the American experiment, and it does not prevent public officials from being impartial in performing their civil service duties.
But it doesn’t matter to Democrats that Judge Pickering affirmed in his hearings that he would follow the law and not his private beliefs on the sanctity of life. It doesn’t matter to Democrats that Pryor also has a solid record of enforcing the law and made a similar pledge to continue to apply the law as written, even when it differs from his personal views. Pryor’s record hasn’t stopped Democratic senators from leading a filibuster against him for his deeply held beliefs, as if Americans are better off if the Senate confirms judicial nominees with shallowly held beliefs.
The Left’s latest antireligion campaign in the judicial nominations process would shock America’s Founding Fathers. They established a civilization based on neutrality toward religion that has sown the most fertile ground in history. Led by Baptists in Virginia and Catholics in Maryland, the Constitution’s framers expressly prohibited the use of religious tests for public office.
Our forefathers meant to ensure a just society free from religious prejudice. But in today’s unprecedented obstructionist campaign to block distinguished, faithful judicial nominees, filibustering Democrats have chosen to ignore the Constitution.