Presidential Primaries and the Religious Test Clause

Considering the fact that there are two members of the LDS church running for President, it seemed inevitable that the “Mormon issue” would rise to the surface again. Mitt Romney attempted to confront the criticism regarding his faith in the 2008 election, but it didn’t seem to quell the unwarranted fears of those that don’t understand LDS doctrine. Around the same time Mitt Romney confronted the religion issues facing his candidacy, Barack Obama was forced to fend off allegations that he was not a Christian and was, in fact, Muslim. Personally, I was shocked at how serious these religious issues were at the time. In this country of religious liberty I assumed that, as a society, our level of religious tolerance was higher than it proved to be. Last week, those ghosts of 2008 seemed to emerge all over again.

Article VI paragraph 3 of the United States Constitution provides that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” This Religious Test Clause clarifies that United States officials, including the President, are not required to accept a particular religion or faith in order to obtain their office. Certainly, when individual Americans voice a religious preference for candidates of public office they do not violate this clause; however, acting on such a preference violates its spirit. No candidate for the presidency of the United States should be excluded from consideration simply because they are Christian or not.

One thing I noticed this past week is a relatively high level of support for the church in the face of bigoted attacks. This support, coming from the general public and the media alike, seems to be greater than it was 3 to 4 years ago. It is likely that the church and its members will continue to be under the microscope in the near future, but I have faith that the American people in general will abide by the spirit of the Religious Test Clause and choose our next President according to the vital issues of our time and not religious misunderstandings.