It matters quite a lot if, in the end, a politician's faith is merely an ecumenical expression of American civil religion -- or if, when taking the religious test, he forthrightly declares (as Kennedy did) that in the event of a clash between his spiritual and political allegiances, the Constitution would always come first. Those are the easy cases. In others -- when a politician denies the need to choose or explain, insisting simply that it's possible to marry his or her religious beliefs with democratic rule in a pluralistic society -- we need to dig deeper, to determine as best we can how the candidate is likely to think and act when the divergent demands of those two realms collide, as they inevitably will.
Friday, September 17, 2010
Damon Linker's piece in the Washington Post on the need for political candidates to face a certain sort of "religious test" is provocative. Linker is right that "religious convictions do not always harmonize with the practice of democratic government." In an increasingly pluralistic society, I'm not sure Linker's proposal can be avoided, even though I don't expect the story will end well. What he says here is true:
Posted by Ben at 9/17/2010