People For the American Way

Roy Moore, Amy Coney Barrett and ‘Religious Tests’ For Office

News and Analysis

The Senate is scheduled to vote Monday night on cloture on the nomination of Notre Dame law professor Amy Coney Barrett to a Circuit Court judgeship based in Chicago.

Barrett became a cause célèbre for the Right when, at her September confirmation hearing, Democratic senators asked her about an article she had written about the conflicts faced by Catholic judges who may be torn between the teachings of the Church and enforcing civil laws.

As PFAW’s Peter Montgomery explained at the Huffington Post:

Barrett had written explicitly about potential conflicts faced by Catholic judges when Church teaching about topics like the death penalty and abortion might conflict with their responsibility to uphold the law. She noted that church prohibitions on abortion and euthanasia are “absolute,” while “those against war and capital punishment are not.” In her writing, she had asserted that judges who are “heedful of ecclesiastical pronouncements” might not be able to dispense impartial justice, and therefore might need to recuse themselves. Yet under questioning she said that she could not envision any case coming before her that would require her recusal.

Yet Religious Right groups declared that in questioning Barrett about these writings Democrats were imposing an unconstitutional “religious test for government service” and implied that liberals ultimately want to ban practicing Christians from public office. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell got into the game, saying that his Democratic colleagues “seem to have forgotten we do not have religious tests for office in this country.”

This was all somewhat jarring coming from a party whose current nominee for Senate in Alabama has explicitly called for a religious test for public office. Roy Moore, notoriously, wrote a column for the far-right website WorldNetDaily shortly after Rep. Keith Ellison was elected to Congress from Minnesota, arguing that Ellison should not be allowed to take his seat in Congress because he’s a Muslim. “Congress has the authority and should act to prohibit Ellison from taking the congressional oath today!” he wrote.

If Senator McConnell is so concerned about religious tests for office, then let’s hear him denounce the Alabama GOP Senate nominee on these grounds.