‘No religious test:’ Upcoming Supreme Court confirmation hearing offers reminder of key constitutional principle

by | Sep 29, 2020

Senate Judiciary Committee hearings are scheduled to begin October 12 on President Trump’s nomination of 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Amy Coney Barrett to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the U.S. Supreme Court. Like most everything these days, the confirmation is expected to be contentious and politically charged. Hopefully, battle lines will not also be drawn along religious beliefs as well.

The last time Barrett faced this panel for confirmation to the appeals court, more than one senator drew criticism – appropriately so – for asking questions about her religious belief and her religiosity. This time around, the hearing is an opportunity for committee members to demonstrate their understanding of, and commitment to, the constitutional admonition that there is no religious test for office in the United States.

Baptist News Global reports on the controversy with an important statement from BJC Executive Director Amanda Tyler, warning that such questioning is out of bounds.

 “One of the core constitutional pillars upholding religious freedom for all is Article VI’s principle of ‘no religious test’ for public office,” Tyler said. “Someone’s religious identity — or lack thereof — is completely irrelevant to whether that person is qualified to hold an official position in our government.


“Judge Barrett’s religion should neither help nor hinder her in the confirmation process. While senators should refrain from asking about her religious views, they should uphold their duty to thoroughly vet her and question her about her constitutional and legal philosophy and positions to ensure that she would faithfully execute her duties as a justice.”

Several news outlets have taken to headlines alerting the public that Barrett’s confirmation would make her the 6th Catholic out of nine justices, to which I would respond, “So what”?

Tyler is right. Religious beliefs are neither qualifying nor disqualifying for government service. That’s not just a nice modern sentiment of inclusion. It is a mandate of Article VI of the U.S. Constitution. With the number of issues facing our country, I am hopeful that the committee will not use its valuable time to engage in inappropriate questioning. Stay tuned.