In his remarks Monday night upon accepting President Trump’s nomination to the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh said this: “My judicial philosophy is straightforward. A judge must be independent, and must interpret the law, not make the law. A judge must interpret statutes as written, and a judge must interpret the Constitution as written, informed by history and tradition and precedent.”
You’d think that would be enough to settle the question of whether Kavanaugh is fit to be a Supreme Court justice: he obviously is. But he also said he is “part of a vibrant Catholic community in the D.C. area,” which means there’s no question he’ll face stiff opposition from Senate Democrats. In fact, Kavanaugh will almost certainly face a religious test from Senate Democrats.
Never mind that religious tests are explicitly forbidden by Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, which states that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” Senators are of course free to vote against any nominee for any reason, including their own anti-religious bias. And while formal religious tests in statue have been outlawed since the Supreme Court settled the matter in 1961, Democrats these days have no special regard for the Constitution or Court rulings they don’t like. (Recall that in 2014, every single Senate Democrat voted to “amend the First Amendment” under the guise of campaign finance reform in a failed bid to undo the Citizens United ruling.)
In fact, religious tests have become a commonplace in Senate confirmation hearings in recent years. One of Trump’s three finalists to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, Amy Coney Barrett, was subjected to a religious test last year during her confirmation for the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, when Sen. Dianne Feinstein infamously declared, “the dogma lives loudly within you.”
The reason for such hyperbole was Barrett’s Catholic faith, which by all accounts is sincere and deeply held. No matter that she has explicitly written that Catholic judges cannot “align our legal system with the Church’s moral teaching whenever the two diverge.” Barrett, like Kavanaugh, is a practicing Catholic, which for the Left means you’re automatically disqualified from a position of public trust.
The irony is that Democrats are trying to claim that Trump is the one imposing a litmus test on Supreme Court nominees. Earlier Monday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, without a hint of irony or self-awareness, proclaimed the following on the floor of the Senate:
At this critical juncture, with so many rights and liberties at stake, U.S. Senators and t he American people should expect an affirmative statement of support for the personal liberties of all Americans from the next Supreme Court nominee. The American people deserve to know what kind of a justice President Trump’s nominee would be. President Trump is the one who made the litmus test for his nominee, not us.
Of course, what Schumer has articulated is a litmus test. That’s precisely what he means by “an affirmative statement of support for the personal liberties of all Americans.” He’s talking about abortion, gay marriage, and a host of other rights the Supreme Court has read into the Constitution over the past forty years. That’s the litmus test, and you can be sure that Kavanaugh’s deeply held Catholic faith marks him suspect, if not intolerable, to Democrats who see religious belief as a threat to their progressive order.
Progressives Want To Exclude Christians From Public Life
We saw this last summer when senators Bernie Sanders and Chris Van Hollen grilled Russell Vought, Trump’s nominee for deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, over his religious views. Sanders latched onto an essay Vought had written about a controversy at his alma mater, Wheaton College, involving a political science professor who had publicly announced her intention to wear a hijab in solidarity with Muslims. The professor had also suggested that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.
In the essay, Vought wrote, “Muslims do not simply have a deficient theology. They do not know God because they have rejected Jesus Christ his Son, and they stand condemned.” That’s a blunt way of stating an uncontroversial and uncontested fact: Christians believe salvation comes only through Jesus Christ.
But because Vought had the temerity to express this belief publicly and without caveats, Sanders said Vought was unfit for public office—even for something as anodyne as being a bureaucrat at the OMB. In the confirmation hearing, Sanders in effect railed against basic Christian theology, saying Vought’s view “is indefensible, it is hateful, it is Islamophobic, and it is an insult to over a billion Muslims throughout the world.” Essentially, Sanders called Vought a bigot for being a Christian.
Sen. Chris Van Hollen jumped in at one point to question Vought’s theology, saying, “I’m a Christian, but part of being a Christian, in my view, is recognizing that there are lots of ways that people can pursue their God.” (The implication being that Van Hollen isn’t that kind of Christian.)
It was a weird exchange, and entirely inappropriate for a Senate confirmation hearing.
Yet this seems to be happening more often at such hearings. Sen. Cory Booker adopted a similar line of attack during Mike Pompeo’s confirmation hearing for secretary of state in April, berating Pompeo for his rather uncontroversial views on same-sex marriage—views Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton shared as recently as 2012. Pompeo could barely get a word in edgewise as Booker demanded to know, “Yes or no,” whether Pompeo believes gay sex is a perversion:
At his confirmation hearing, Mike Pompeo repeatedly refused to answer a simple question: Do you believe being gay is a perversion? pic.twitter.com/VM0VqsKUlo
— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) April 12, 2018
Booker then went on to explain why it’s not okay, in his view, for Pompeo to hold traditional Christian beliefs about marriage. He said:
You’re going to be secretary of state of the United States at a time that we have an increase of hate speech and hate actions against Jewish Americans, Muslim Americans, Indian Americans. Hate acts are on the increase against these Americans. You’re going to be representing this country and values abroad in places where gay individuals are under untold persecution, face untold violence. Your views do matter. You’re going to be dealing with Muslim states on Muslim issues. I do not necessarily concur that you are putting forth the values of our nation when you believe there are people in our country that are perverse, and where you think that you create different categories of Americans and their obligations when it comes to condemning of violence.
So for Booker, as for Sanders, Van Hollen, and Feinstein, holding traditional Christian beliefs disqualifies one from holding public office—even for a candidate as manifestly qualified as Kavanaugh. That’s why Sanders tweeted Monday after Kavanaugh’s announcement that Democrats “must do everything we can to stop this nomination.”
The Media Is Religiously Illiterate
Of course it’s not just Senate Democrats. The mainstream media has long been religiously illiterate, but as the “resistance” mentality has taken hold of newsrooms, bias against religion and devout believers has markedly increased. A recent anti-Catholic hit piece on Leonard Leo of the Federalist Society by Jay Michaelson of The Daily Beast is a case in point. In addition to being riddled with factual errors, the article depicts Leo as a religious zealot funded by “dark money”—a “puppetmaster” at the center of a shadowy network that’s reshaping the Supreme Court.
Worse, it depicts basic theological concepts, like the idea that life begins at conception or that men and women are biologically complementary, as “rigid, conservative religious dogmas.” In one particularly embarrassing passage, Michaelson writes that Leo and his secret cabal believe in something called “natural law” that “is as part of the fabric of the universe as the laws of nature.” Well, yes. The laws of nature are the natural law. The Declaration of Independence recognizes as much, but in Michaelson’s view, this is somehow conspiratorial.
Of course, Leo is nothing like the caricature in the Daily Beast profile. Here’s he is on Fox News on Monday, spouting his “extremist” views on religion and constitutional jurisprudence:
Leonard Leo: "For a judge to be fair, it’s not about their own personal views or their cultural or social backgrounds. It’s about interpreting the law as it’s written." @AmericaNewsroom pic.twitter.com/xZnezai8q1
— Fox News (@FoxNews) July 9, 2018
But it doesn’t matter how Leo or Kavanaugh or any other believer in a position of influence or authority represent themselves. For the media, as for progressives generally, sincere religious belief is “cult-like.” Examples abound, but here’s a recent one from Yahoo News that reads like something out of The Onion:
Skeptics of Judge Amy Barrett’s involvement with a group called People of Praise have questioned whether the group has demonstrated cult-like elements https://t.co/gnqVD2H7nQ by @jonward11 pic.twitter.com/uHZx3LAtwz
— Yahoo News (@YahooNews) July 9, 2018
Increasingly, progressives will not tolerate deeply religious people in positions of authority. They have written them off as bigots and extremists with dangerous views, which is why Kavanaugh in his Senate confirmation hearings will face charges of bigotry and extremism from Democrats who feel free to flout the Constitution and impose their version of a religious test for public office.
The only way to pass such a test is to not let on that you have any deeply held religious beliefs whatsoever—unless of course you subscribe to the religion of progressivism, and confess a firm belief in nothing so much as the almighty power of the state.