Monday, December 03, 2007

No Religious Test Shall Ever Be Required

Cancel the speech, Gov Romney. You don't need to do it. You have the constitutional right to tell anyone who questions your religion to go to Hell, if you want. Assuming you believe in Hell. I don't, but that's neither here not there. You see, Gov Romney, there's an often-overlooked clause in the constitution. Article VI, Clause 3, ends with, "...but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States." The Republican Party especially has been putting out the idea that if you are not a person of faith, then you are unfit to hold high public office. This is wrong, and it is unconstitutional.

Since, constitutionally, there is no religious test that any candidate for president must pass, then why do all the candidates act as if they are trying to pass one? Why do they make a big deal out of their religious beliefs? Those beliefs shouldn't matter, because they have no role in guiding public policy. Personal moral behavior, yes, if that's what you think is needed to be moral, but public policy, no. And therein lies the problem. There are too many people out there who believe that you must have a belief in God (or in some power higher than yourself which, to the skeptic like me, would look just like a god) in order to have a moral belief system. This is simply not true. I adhere to no religious beliefs (in case you didn't already know, I am atheist), yet I have as my moral guiding principal the same one many of you out there have: To try to treat other people the way I would like to be treated by them.

I do not need any fear of eternal damnation in Hell to frighten me into doing what's right. I try to do what's right because I feel good when I do it. I like helping people. I like teaching people new things. I like trying to make the lives of the people I see everyday just a little bit better for having given me the opportunity to share this life with them. I do it because I like to do it. And the fact that there are a lot of people who have the same moral foundation as I is evident in the way they return the kindness I give them. They, in return, are treating me as I treat them. And no deity need be involved. No fear of what may come after this life for not doing right by your fellow man. None of that. Just the simple recognition that if we all try to treat other people the way we would like to be treated, that kindness just naturally comes back to us. (Most of the time, anyway.)

So cancel that speech, Gov Romney. Your religious beliefs are nobody else's business. And just as you have the right to refuse to subject yourself to any religious test whatsoever (including do you have one?), the voting public has no constitutional right to insist that you do. And we don't ever need to hear about those religious beliefs because they will not be driving public policy. Will they? I hope not.

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