Presidential candidate Ben Carson has raised much controversy by telling Chuck Todd of NBC’s Meet The Press: “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.” Immediately, some have said that his statement indicates that he is unfit to serve as President. Some have boldly declared that the Constitution says that we are not to have any religious test for our candidates (Article 6 paragraph 3).
Please understand that I am not endorsing any political candidate on this blog. I am not an apologist for Ben Carson or anyone else. This is not about politics.
However, there are some things which need to be said. First, the religious test clause does not apply to voters, but to the federal government. Christians can and should vote for what is in the best interest of Christianity. Let us remember, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34), “When the righteous are in authority the people rejoice; But when the wicked man rules, the people groan” (Proverbs 29:2). John Jay, First Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, said, “Providence has given to our people the choice of rulers, and it is the duty as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation, to select and prefer Christians as their rulers” (Barton, Original Intent, p. 344).
Second, the religious test clause of the Constitution originally applied to the Federal government and not to states. Eight states’ constitutions require state office holders to have a particular belief [Arkansas (Article 19, Section 1); Maryland (Article 37); Mississippi (Article 14, Section 265); North Carolina (Article 1, Section 4); Pennsylvania (Article 1 Section4); South Carolina (Article 17; Section 4); Tennessee (Article 9 Section 2); Texas (Article 1, Section 4)]. Texas requires one acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being. “At the time of the Founding, every single one of the individual states had a religious test for public office, and eight still do” (Bryan Fischer, onenewsnow.com, September 23, 2015). The constitutionality of these tests have been defeated in recent years (The 1961 U.S. Supreme Court case Torcas0 v. Watkins; The 1997 S.C. Supreme Court case Silverman v. Campbell).
Third, “the Founding Fathers did not consider a requirement to believe in God to be a religious test” (Barton, Original Intent, p. 36). The State of Tennessee’s Constitution forbids religious tests (Article 11, Section 4). Yet, it also reads, “No person who denies the being of God, or a future state of rewards and punishments, shall hold any office in the Civil department of this state” (Article 9, Section 2). The religious test clause was likely designed to prevent the government from requiring one to be a member of a certain denomination or religious group.
Regardless of the meaning of “religious test,” the constitution is limiting government and not voters. Do not let anyone tell you that you must leave your Christian beliefs behind when you go to the polls.