Missouri governor suggests a religious test for state office, Ohio Senate candidate calls church-state separation a “myth”

by | Feb 15, 2022

As discussed on this blog many times, the constitutional prohibition against any religious test for public office must be diligently safeguarded against subtle threats to its essential protection of religious liberty. That is why those of us who believe in faith freedom for all call out even indirect suggestions that a public servant is disqualified because of their religious views. Then, there are threats of a religious test that are, let’s say, less subtle, and more direct.

Enter Missouri Gov. Mike Parsons. Defending his pick to head the state’s Health and Senior Service’s Department against public criticism over his public health views, Parsons assured Missourians that he would “not have nominated someone who does not share the same Christian values.”

Say what? Only someone with Christian values? As Word & Way editor Brian Kaylor explained well in an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, religious tests for public office are unconstitutional for good reasons:

“This is a state where this director is going to be serving people of many faiths and no faith,” Kaylor said, “and so I think that’s very concerning that a governor would send a message that only Christians need to apply to this type of position, which not only impacts any applicants, or people who might be chosen, but also sends a message to the rest of the state that maybe you’re a second-class citizen.”

As Missouri state legislator Brian Schwadron, R-St. Charles, asked, in response to Parsons, “[w]ould someone who is Jewish, such as myself, be considered for nomination?”

Fortunately, the Constitution permits only one answer to that question: Yes. Any suggestion to the contrary undermines the core American value of faith freedom for all.

Meanwhile, up the road in Ohio, a U.S. Senate candidate appears to be centering his campaign on the belief that there is no such thing as the separation of church and state. In a debate earlier this week, Republican candidate Josh Mandel said of that cornerstone constitutional principle: “it doesn’t exist.” He had more troubling things to say on top of that.

The Cleveland News reports:

Mandel, who is Jewish, said that while America was based upon religion that does not include the Muslim faith.


“The Judeo-Christian bedrock of America is the foundation of this country,” Mandel said. “America was founded on Judeo-Christian values, not on Muslim values, not on atheism, but on Judeo-Christian values. There are so many factors that separate that Judeo-Christian belief-set from these other beliefs, like Islam and atheism, and one of the main differentiating factors is our belief in good over evil, and our willingness to fight for good over evil.”

It should go without saying, but American Muslims and American atheists are fully American. Nothing but bigotry, misunderstanding, and privilege stands between Muslims – or people of any faith and people of no faith – and public service.