Feinstein berates judicial nominee for being too serious about her Catholicism

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Published by: Dan Calabrese on Thursday September 07th, 2017

Religious test.

The U.S. Constitution says no one can be subjected to a religious test for service in government. Eh. The Constitution says lots of things Democrats don't really care for. We've already seen Bernie Sanders, early this year, berating a budget office nominee for being a Bible-believing Christian. I think this train has left the station as far as Democrats are concerned, so why shouldn't Dianne Feinstein chide Amy Barrett, a Catholic and a Notre Dame law professor, for being a little too overt about her Catholicism for the senator's liking?

As far as Feinstein is concerned, she should. So during Barrett's confirmation hearing yesterday, she did:

The implied subtext of all this, of course, is that a public servant who is too devoted to the dogma of her church might side with church dogma over U.S. law. This is the same exact attack leveled against JFK when he sought, successfully, to be the first Catholic president. His opponents worried (or claimed to be worried) that he would put fealty to the pope over loyalty to the United States.

The problem with this line of attack, whether it's against a presidential candidate or a judicial nominee, is that the Constitution is designed to protect against abuses in both directions. The system doesn't allow you to impose your religious beliefs on a nation of secular laws. As much as the left wrings its hands over the idea that conservative Christians will try this, it simply can't be done. Our system of checks and balances leaves no room for it.

But the system also protects people like Barrett from having their fitness challenged simply for being Catholic, or for being of any other religious bent, Christian or otherwise. If you're qualified and of good character, you can serve. Just because you have religious beliefs doesn't automatically make you a suspect to unconstitutionally impose them on everyone else. That's what the Constitution means when it says there will be no religious test.

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But I think Democrats are reaching for more than that. Their real concern with Christians - at least those of the conservative variety - is that their faith will influence their decisions on matters of policy that don't qualify as the sheer imposition of religion. Abortion is the most obvious example. There are plenty of Catholic Democrats who favor abortion because they're more loyal to their party than to their church, so they're perfectly fine. But Catholic Republicans are almost always pro-life, and that tells Feinstein she's going to have a policy problem with Barrett.

That's the real reason she's berating her for her Catholicism.

I wonder if there's really any way to enforce the prohibition against the religious test in situations like this, or the one linked above with Bernie Sanders. If a Democrat senator wants to sit there at your confirmation hearing and blister you for being a Christian, who's going to come along and put a restraint against them for doing so? To take it a step further, let's say Democrats defeat someone's confirmation and make no bones about the fact that they did so because the person was a Christian. What then? Does the Supreme Court step in and rule the person confirmed because the reason given for denying him or her was unconstitutional?

This may be exposing a weakness in the Constitution just as much of Obama's overreach did. Democrats are discovering that much of what the Constitution says you can't do, you can do, if only in the sense that there's no practical way for anyone to stop you. The more they try this and pay no price, the more ballsy they're going to become about pushing it further.

Then what?

Dan's new novel, BACKSTOP, is a story of spiritual warfare and baseball. Download it from Amazon here!