When religion is a test for political office.

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In the Constitution of the United States of America, there is this to say about religious tests for office (emphasis mine):

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.

But religion has become a de facto test in campaigns as the Christian majority is pandered to by politicians trying to out Christian each other, even when it involves attempts to infringe on the right to free exercise of religion of others.

In Tennessee, two candidates in a Republican primary are in a contest of who opposes the construction of a mosque more. In 2010, district lines were redrawn and so the mosque isn’t even in the district they are running in, but hey: these are Republicans and we can’t expect facts to get in the way of demagoguery.

So, they are opposing the Constitution they are bound to serve, in order to have an unconstitutional de facto test for office which, if more than rhetoric would infringe on the free exercise of religion of a minority group, if the mosque were still in the same district, which it isn’t.

It’s nice that sometimes stupid renders itself impotent.

But what about the underlying issues: the rights of the individual and minorities against possible tyranny of the majority, the right to build religious institutions, the tax exempt status of those institutions?

The Constitutional approach works better than we allow it to: the free exercise of religion including the building of places of worship, the protection of the rights of minorities and individuals is why we haven’t historical had problems with large groups of radicialized extremist minorities.

But- to pick a high profile example- Rep. King with his anti-Muslim panels wants to trample those rights and would increase the likelihood of radicalization, whether he desires that outcome or not.

And in the Bill of Rights this phrase “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” was used by Jefferson in the sense of a wall of separation where Congress could not pass- not to create a religion, not to create ties to a religion, not to either support or oppose a religion. Madison famously called that wall “absolute.”

I would argue that making churches and other religious organizations tax exempt is in effect a subsidy by the government which violates the Constitution, and is an imposition on all- whether Muslim, Christian, atheist or Buddhist- who don’t want to pay higher taxes to support other people’s churches.

There may be an argument to be had against that mosque- or at least its tax exempt status- but it is the same argument that would apply to churches, and so you won’t ever hear it from someone rallying their Christian Soldiers to vote.

Links found at Political Wire.

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