When Sen. Dianne Feinstein told Amy Coney Barrett, who is now confirmed as a judge for the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and is a potential Supreme Court nominee, that “dogma lives loudly within” her and “that’s of concern,” she wasn’t voicing concern over the nominee’s religious orthodoxy as much as she was revealing her own.
After all, Catholicism, unlike progressivism, has never inhibited anyone from faithfully executing her constitutional duties—which the judge has done with far more conviction than Feinstein. Maybe Barrett should have been asking the questions.
Recently, by unanimous consent, the Senate approved a Ben Sasse resolution that declares that it is unconstitutional to reject nominees because of their membership to the Knights of Columbus. This move was instigated by a similar incident, when Democratic Sens. Kamala Harris and Mazie Hirono criticized President Donald Trump’s nominee for the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska, Brian Buescher, for being a bit too Catholic for their liking.
The Knights of Columbus, a benevolent society that still clings to antiquated notions about the dignity of human life—from the very beginning to the very end—doesn’t exactly adhere to the new progressive moral canon.
Unlike many friends on the right, I’m less offended by questions regarding dogma and belief. It’s true that the Constitution explicitly states that a federal government officeholder or employee can’t be required to adhere to or accept any particular religion or doctrine as a prerequisite to holding a federal office or job. But it’s also true that the clause directly preceding that clause requires every federal and state official to take an oath to support the Constitution.
Rejecting someone over his faith alone is unquestionably a religious test. Merely asking a nominee whether her beliefs might stop her from fulfilling her constitutional duties is a relevant question.
For many liberals, though, the problem is that the beliefs of many Catholics and other adherents of various Christian theologies—or, for that matter, Jewish ones, as well—are increasingly undermining progressive ideals, not constitutional ones.
As Beto O’Rourke might ask, do the principles of the Constitution “still work”? When it comes to religious freedom, they most certainly do not. It’s progressive dogma that led a Harvard-educated Washington Post editor to incredulously ask how traditional Christian schools can even “happen” in contemporary American society.
She was questioning not merely whether second lady Karen Pence is right or wrong to teach at a Christian school—after all, Americans are free to be critical of people’s faith—but how a school that adheres to the teachings of a church that counter progressive dogma can exist at all.
This is the same progressive moral dogma that justifies yearslong attacks on the livelihood of Christian bakers and florists. It’s the same dogma that justifies coercing nuns to pay for the rite of birth control. If one doesn’t adhere to these commandments, the state, the most powerful institution in the world, will sue them into submission.
In this regard, liberals also like to claim that those who do allow traditional faith to inform their political views are somehow undermining a tenet of American life. (Well, as long as that traditional faith can’t be utilized for left-wing agenda items, such as immigration and socialized health care.)
As it goes, some of us, even nonbelievers, prefer the teachings of Jesus to those of Marx—which, in the non-celestial world, means free will over coercion. Whatever the case, our backgrounds and beliefs always color our opinions.
The Democratic presidential hopeful Tulsi Gabbard, an apostate on this issue, recently argued in an op-ed that if the Knights of Columbus are a disqualifying group, “then President John F. Kennedy, and the ‘liberal lion of the Senate’ Ted Kennedy would have been ‘unqualified’ for the same reasons.”
Well, not exactly the same reason. The anti-Catholicism of the past was predicated on an aversion to new immigrants, conspiracies about the pope, and a general long-standing theological distrust among religious denominations.
In the political arena today, only the latter of those reasons is in play, and the denomination isn’t Protestant. The “liberal lion of the Senate” wouldn’t be disqualified by today’s standards, because in public life, at least, he was a doctrinal liberal.
“There are many people on the left who act like every political fight is going to bring about heaven or hell on earth—and so there are a lot of folks for whom politics is a religion,” Sasse said after his resolution passed.
Progressives are the most zealous moralists. And these lines of questioning from Democrats, increasingly prevalent in political discourse, are an attempt to create the impression that faithful Christians, whose beliefs are at odds with newly sanctified cultural mores, are incapable of doing their jobs.
Sasse is right. Political bellum sacrum is here. We’re just not looking at the right people.
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David Harsanyi is a senior editor at The Federalist and the author of the forthcoming “First Freedom: A Ride through America’s Enduring History With the Gun, From the Revolution to Today.” Twitter: @davidharsanyi.
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