No Christians Allowed: A New Kind of Religious Test for Public Office

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For six days, Kim Davis sat in jail because, to put it most simply, it had been found that you can’t be a practicing Christian and serve the public office of county clerk.

But for Kim Davis, and any genuine Christian, Christianity CAN’T be taken entirely out of a job; it is a whole identity. Freedom of religion is not just “freedom to worship” on Sundays, but freedom to live under Christ the King all day every day.  Gays are protected for their beliefs, and Christianity persecuted for theirs.  Gays claim gayness as their whole identity, but won’t let Christians claim Christ as theirs.  There would be a righteous outcry if a gay man was barred from public office or jailed for being gay.  What if there was a government task, like issuing a permit for a Westboro Baptist Church protest, in which the gay official was forced to participate?  This would be grave injustice! Any nation that prioritizes a belief to the point of prosecuting, instead of protecting opposing beliefs, it has fallen far from the ideal of freedom.

The founders were no stranger to religious dispute and the question of the relationship between faith and public office. They disagreed adamantly amongst themselves on many religious questions.  Deep-seated differences between Catholics, Anglicans, Protestants, Quakers, Mennonites and more drove wedges into the founding of the nation that took great tolerance to overcome. To protect the interest of all parties of many religious persuasions, the founders made it unconstitutional to require any certain religious belief of a public official: “… no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” (Article VI, Paragraph 3)

This policy was intended not to make everyone who served in government irreligious, but rather to make all religions welcome in government. The clause’s principle of tolerance for diversity of belief is a better argument for getting government out of the marriage question entirely (and leaving everyone’s belief to themselves), which is exactly what this clerk has chosen to do, then it is to force her to do something against her religion.  The idea that Kim can’t be a Christian to do her job amounts to nothing less than a twisted type of religious test that ensures that Christianity isn’t present.

Testing to see if you don’t have cancer is a cancer test.

Testing to see if water doesn’t have chemicals is a chemical test.

Testing for the lack of something is the same process as testing for it.

Testing to ensure you aren’t going to follow your religion in public office is a religious test.

The policy meant that the lack or presence of any religion should not be the determining factor of public office, but has been ignored on both extremes. In times past, it was atheists who fought for their rights to serve in public office because of the promise of no religious test.  In the Supreme Court case Torcaso V. Watkins, public notary Roy Torcaso of Maryland won his appeal to the Supreme Court that his atheism could not preclude him from public office. Now America faces the other extreme.  Now it is Christians who must fight for their rights to serve in public office even though they remain religious.

Compromise would be easy, but it wouldn’t accomplish what the gay couples want.  They want our thundering applause, which we will not grant.  Neither these gay couples nor our government have the authority to test our faith and to limit our freedoms.  Instead we will face the ultimate test of answering to God for our faithfulness, and “We must obey God, rather than man.” (Acts 5:29)  Kim’s decision to do just that is what got her thrown into jail.  It’s almost like we are in ancient Rome and not America.