Klavan On The Culture

Hath Not a Catholic Eyes?

(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

How would it be if we questioned Dianne Feinstein‘s ability to serve as a senator because she is Jewish? After all, “You know, dogma and law are two different things. And I think whatever a religion is, it has its own dogma. The law is totally different.” So said the senator in her recent questioning of Notre Dame law professor Amy Barrett, a Trump nominee for the Seventh District Court of Appeals, and a believing Catholic. Of course, Senator Feinstein’s hostility to Catholic dogma — including the divinity of Christ — might be seen as an expression of her own Jewish dogma, denying Christ’s divinity. We might say to the senator what she said to Professor Barrett: “the dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for years in this country.” As a liberal Jew, for instance, the senator might deny that our founding guarantees of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” apply to children in the womb — a principle large numbers of people have indeed fought for for years.

But of course — of course — it would be despicable, disgusting and deeply unAmerican to question Senator Feinstein in this way. Not because religious dogma can’t be questioned. All ideas can be questioned and attacked. And it’s not because there isn’t a danger of dogmatic religious people imposing their dogma on our secular government. I for one wouldn’t allow a Muslim who believed in the abomination of Sharia to come anywhere near an American bench because the very idea of Sharia is antithetical to the underlying principles of American law.

No. It would be disgusting and unAmerican to attack Senator Feinstein on the basis of her Jewishness because it violates the very principles of our founding, so deeply connected to Judeo-Christian thought. Article Six of the Constitution explicitly states that all public servants, including judges, “shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” In other words, once it is established that a candidate for public office does not hold beliefs that prevent him from swearing allegiance to the Constitution (as a belief in Sharia would), his religion is none of your damn business.

In the case of Professor Barrett, the truth is clear. Senator Feinstein was questioning the professor on an article she wrote as a 26-year-old law clerk in 1998. The article examined what religious judges should do if they could not decide a case according to secular law in good conscience. Her answer was that they should recuse themselves. “Judges cannot—nor should they try to—align our legal system with the Church’s moral teaching whenever the two diverge,” she wrote.

Thus Senator Feinstein was not only violating the Constitution, she was violating a central principle of American decency. Since Professor Barrett was clearly able to swear allegiance to the Constitution, Feinstein’s questions expressed nothing more than her own — and her party’s — hostility toward a specific group of religious people. Perhaps we should all ask some questions of Senator Feinstein in response: “Hath not a Catholic eyes, Senator? Hath not a Catholic hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions like the rest of us?”

It is not surprising that the same Democrat party that denounced Donald Trump as a bigot for his infelicitous phrasing in response to the recent violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, should exhibit this plain, purposeful and insistent bigotry itself. It is the oldest Democrat trick in the book: accusing the rest of us of the ugliness they themselves practice at will.

For more commentary, listen to my podcast Monday through Thursday.