by Alexandra McPhee
February 11, 2019
Imagine that one day you sit down for a job interview. You are prepared to answer your interviewer’s questions and demonstrate your qualifications for the position.
Then imagine getting asked a question that has nothing to do with whether you are qualified for the job. In fact, though irrelevant, the question has to do with something very personal—your faith.
“Do you personally believe that gay relationships are a sin?”
“Do you intend to end your membership with this faith-based organization to avoid any appearance of bias in your new position?”
As your interviewer keeps probing for an answer, you realize that whether you get the job depends entirely on your answer to this irrelevant question. And you realize that no matter what your answer is, the interviewer has already made up her mind.
After all, how do you respond to comments like “I think whatever a religion is, it has its own dogma” or “religion has been used as a ruse to discriminate”?
You have just imagined the job interviews for 10 presidential nominees and their experience before the United States Senate. Not only were they questioned about their faith—they were questioned publicly and by senators who had every intention of casting them in a negative light based on their answers. And on more than one occasion, senators relied on the mischaracterizations of faith-based organizations perpetuated by groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center, a group hostile to several faith-based organizations.
FRC’s new Issue Brief Rebels Without a Clause: When Senators Run Roughshod Over the “No Religious Test” Clause of the U.S. Constitution catalogs a disturbing trend by senators of interrogating nominees about the particulars of their beliefs or affiliations that demonstrate a hostility towards religion. The questions go beyond a reasonable inquiry into whether the nominee can remain impartial if faced with circumstances that conflict with her personal values. They aim to paint the nominee as discriminatory, partial, and incapable of faithfully carrying out her official duties.
Regardless of the political party of the senator, the nominee’s religious beliefs, or the particular office, these questions deter qualified candidates from pursuing public office at a time when we need them most. Faith and religion, after all, are often the foundation of integrity and character. The hostility and mistrust of religion that underlies these questions threaten to create a deficit of true leaders who are often such great role models because of their faith.
As commentators continue to draw attention to this flagrant display of bias against certain religious beliefs, we hope our elected leaders will understand that voters will not tolerate attacks against qualified candidates in exchange for fleeting political gain.