The ugliest byproduct of this year’s protracted struggle for the Republican presidential nomination involves the unwelcome return of the discredited, dangerous old idea of imposing religious tests on candidates for public office.

Before Rick Santorum suspended his presidential campaign, exit polls from his landslide victory in the Louisiana primary showed a stunning 73 percent of Republican voters insisted it “matters that a candidate shares my religious beliefs” — expressing the conviction that it’s appropriate to judge a prospective president based on his theological orientation. Only 12 percent took the position that it matters “not at all” if a candidate’s religious outlook differed from their own.

There’s an obvious irony to this situation: Many of those same social conservatives who claim to revere the plain text of the Constitution seem determined to ignore its prohibition on religious tests for federal office.

Article VI, Clause 3 unambiguously states that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” This sweeping language, adopted at the original Constitutional Convention two years before the First Amendment’s famous prohibition on “establishment of religion,” left so little doubt as to its meaning that not even the most imaginative jurists or politicians have attempted to interpret it away.

Continue Reading on www.delmarvanow.com