Written by Don Byrd

U.S. Senate candidate in the upcoming special election in Alabama, Roy Moore, visited Capitol Hill today and faced reporter’s questions about troubling statements he has made in the past that suggest he does not believe Americans of all faiths should be allowed to serve in Congress. Writing in 2006, Moore responded to the election of Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison, who is Muslim, by saying, “Congress has the authority and should act to prohibit Ellison from taking the congressional oath today!”

As a lawyer and former Alabama Supreme Court justice (though twice removed from the bench), Moore should have known better. The U.S. Constitution clearly and explicitly prohibits any religious test for office (both for Congressmen and for judicial nominees), a mandate that Moore acknowledged when pressed by reporters. According to a tweet from NBC journalist Garrett Haake, he insisted “I didn’t say he couldn’t [serve], I said — go read my World Net Daily article that says ‘should,’ not ‘could.'” But an action by Congress to refuse to seat Ellison because of his faith would clearly run afoul of the “no religious test” principle.

Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) expressed his concerns about Moore’s statements, according to The Hill:

Flake warned against “applying religious tests to those who heed the call of government service,” in a speech on the Senate floor, a reference to a 2006 column by former Alabama Supreme Court judge Roy Moore.

“When a judge expressed his personal belief that a practicing Muslim should not be a member of Congress because of his religious faith, it was wrong. That this same judge is now my party’s nominee for the Senate from Alabama should concern us all,” Flake continued. 

“Religious tests have no place in the United States Congress. Standing up for people of faith, whether Muslim or Catholic, who are facing unfair prejudice should be an act of basic conscience that should be expected of all of us, regardless of party.” 

In his responses on Capitol Hill, Moore reportedly added that he would not attempt to explain his position to the press. “Reporters don’t understand religious liberty, where it comes from. It comes from God, not from the Constitution.”

For more on his views, see an interview he gave earlier this year about the intersection of religion and public life.