Thursday, December 06, 2007

There is a religious test for high office and here it is!

Sam Smith
The Progressive Review

We are once again being treated to that remarkably self-serving and hypocritical myth that there should be no religious test for high office. For one thing, it's a lie: if you aren't religious, you don't get high office. For another thing, if you are religious, you spend a good deal of your campaign convincing some voters just how faithful you are while trying to fool the rest into thinking that it doesn't make any difference. In both cases, the unusual aspect of the test is that no one is meant to think it exists.

As yet another public service, the Review proposes to bring the religious test out of the closet and into the debate in a reasonable fashion, helping the voter judge the relative worth of various candidates' Leave No Apostle Behind programs. We shall revise the exam from time to time and welcome any suggestions


1. Does the candidate belong to one of the more exotic sects such as Scientology or Mormonism? What does this suggest about the candidate's ability to deal rationally with real situations and the quality of that candidate's judgment?

2. Is the candidate a saint in the church but a devil under cover? As Mahalia Jackson put it, "I can't go to church and shout all day Sunday, come home and get drunk and raise hell on a Monday."

3. Does the candidate try to appear highly religious to one set of voters and highly broad minded to another?

4. If the candidate is a Catholic, whom does he or she most admire: the current Pope, the Berrigan Brothers or various liberation theologians?

5. If the candidate is Episcopalian, to which branch does he or she belong: the high and crazy, broad and hazy or low and lazy?

6. Which aspects of the candidate's religion or its history will that candidate openly condemn?

7. Is faith used by the candidate as a space filler for the absence of facts or is it used as a false replacement for facts?

8. Does faith primarily influence the candidate by providing positive values or by supplying wildly unsupportable information posing as truth?

9. Would the candidate support the end of discrimination against secularists? For example, would the candidate support an atheist opening sessions of the Senate and would the candidate host idea breakfasts as well as prayer breakfasts at the White House?

10. Does the candidate think God talks to him? How does one distinguish this from the heard voices that lead others to be committed to mental institutions?

11. Does the candidate believe God is responsible for improvements in poll numbers? Does the candidate agree with Mike Huckabee's assessment: "There's only one explanation for it, and it's not a human one. It's the same power that helped a little boy with two fish and five loaves feed a crowd of 5,000 people?"

12. If, as Mitt Romney claims, "We are a nation under God, and we do place our trust in him," and if as Barack Obama says, "What role does [religion] play? I say it plays every role." then shouldn't there be a religious test of candidates so we can tell who God trusts the most?

13. But since there supposedly isn't a religious test for high office, why does Mike Huckabee run TV ads proclaiming himself a "Christian leader?" Or tell a group of evangelicals, "God is not spelled G-O-P, and if the G-O-P ever leaves G-O-D then the G-O-P will lose m-e?"

14. Why does the media use the term "pro-family" to describe Republican policies when the divorce rate in heavily GOP states in the Mid West is higher than in God-forsaken Massachusetts?

15. If there is no religious test then why are issues like abortion and gay marriage so important, since about the only people worried about them are religious fundamentalists?

16. Mitt Romney says, "Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom." What section of the Constitution is that in? What if one seeks freedom from religion?

17. If there is no religious test for high office, why does a new president have to take an oath using a Bible?

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