In a city that more and more Americans identify with nothing but hot air and meaningless posturing, Senator Ben Sasse delivered a glimmer of hope with his impassioned defense of religious liberty on January 16. From the Senate floor, Sasse openly rebuked his own colleagues by proposing a Senatorial resolution reaffirming the Senate’s commitment to not imposing a religious test for anyone seeking to hold public office. The Senate affirmed his resolution without objection.
His action came in response to the anti-Catholic line of questioning thrown at U. S. District Court nominee Brian Buescher. Senators Kamala Harris and Mazie Hirano questioned Buescher’s suitability to sit on the bench because of his membership in the Knights of Columbus. Sasse rightly pointed out that this type of anti-Catholic rhetoric had been hurled at Democratic president, and member of the Knights of Columbus himself, John F. Kennedy. He commented that freedom of religion “isn’t a Republican belief. This isn’t a Democratic belief. This is an American belief.” Religious testing was inappropriate then, and it remains inappropriate now.
Trying to slip through this type of discrimination via religious litmus test is nothing new from the left. About a year and half ago, Senator Bernie Sanders applied the same anti-constitutional violation to Russell Vought who had the audacity to publicly criticize Islam theologically. He made no hateful statements about Islam or Muslims, but he simply said their religion was wrong from his perspective as a Christian. His statement expressing the obvious truth that contradictory worldviews cannot be simultaneously true was apparently sufficient evidence for the Senator from Vermont to vocally oppose Mr. Vought. I have shared the letter I wrote to the Senator previously here and also received a form letter response from the Senator’s office which you can see here.
These assaults on religious liberty need to be stonewalled, and even though Senator Sasse’s gesture was largely symbolic, simply asking Senators to reaffirm their commitment to not apply any religious test for anyone seeking public office was a very important gesture. It is important to remind people what religious liberty means. G. K. Chesterton somewhat cynically told us what religious liberty meant to people in his day, and it is very similar to what the left seems to be bringing back into style today. He wrote in Autobiography, “Religious liberty might be supposed to mean that everybody is free to discuss religion. In practice it means that hardly anybody is allowed to mention it.”
When you have people like Senator Hirano aligning defenders of religious liberty with the alt-right, you know that all perspective has been lost, and Chesterton was prophetic in a way that he could never have anticipated. Beyond that, you cannot help but be terrified for the future of religious liberty with people like Senator Hirano in power. America is built on a collection of freedoms, and freedom of religion is one of the most significant ones.
Senator Sasse took a significant stand for liberty, and he took a significant stand for America as we know it. We may not be a perfect country all the time, but a country that sincerely believes in religious liberty and does not apply a governmentally-applied religious test for office is remarkably better than the thought police state led by Commanders Hirano and Harris.