85 Percent of Americans Oppose a Religious Test for Public Office

Last month, Sen.s Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) launched an inquisition into a Trump judicial nominee because he was a member of the Knights of Columbus (KOC), a charity that abides by Roman Catholic doctrine on sexual issues. Their questions on sexual morality arguably amounted to a religious test for public office. Partially in response to this attack, KOC commissioned a poll on American attitudes toward religious freedom -- and the results did not bode well for Harris and Hirono.

The vast majority of Americans (85 percent) said that faith should not be a factor in deciding a person's appointment to a job in the federal government, the KOC/Marist poll found. Only 11 percent said faith should be a factor.

Perhaps ironically, Democrats proved more likely (90 percent) to agree that faith should not be a factor in federal appointments than Republicans (74 percent) and independents (89 percent).

Most Americans (63 percent) supported allowing people for whom religion is important to serve as appointees in the federal government, while only 19 percent disagreed. Most Republicans (72 percent), independents (61 percent), and Democrats (58 percent) agreed.

Similar majorities supported letting people for whom religion is important serve as federal judges. Sixty-two percent of Americans agreed, while only 23 percent disagreed. Most Republicans (73 percent), independents (60 percent), and Democrats (59 percent) also favored allowing religious people to serve as judges.

"Americans rightly support religious freedom and reject religious tests for public office," Knights of Columbus CEO Carl Anderson said in a statement on the poll. "Article VI of the Constitution, which forbids religion tests, continues to strongly resonate with the overwhelming majority of Americans, who believe that faith should not be a barrier to someone's appointment to public service."

The poll also found strong support for religious freedom. By a margin of more than 20 points (55 percent to 33 percent), Americans agreed that freedom of religion should be protected even when it goes against government laws.

Marist surveyed 1,066 adults between January 8 and January 10, 2019, and KOC published the results on Wednesday, the federal government's annual Religious Liberty Day. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.

Kamala Harris and Mazie Hirono should be ashamed of themselves, but they are far from the only liberal senators pushing what amounts to a religious test for public office. In 2017, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) attacked Amy Coney Barrett, saying that "the dogma lives loudly within you." In this, Feinstein echoed Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) who suggested a Trump nominee couldn't serve on the judge's bench because he thought Islamic theology is wrong.

If anyone disagrees with the liberal identity politics of intersectionality — supporting LGBT people, Muslims, women, et cetera, even though these oppressed identities can clash — on the basis of religion, one or two of the most radical Democrats will argue that person cannot be trusted to serve in public office. More might secretly believe it.

Vast majorities of Americans, and even Democrats, disagree with applying this kind of religious test for public office — and such a test is utterly unconstitutional. Americans should remember this when Kamal Harris declares her candidacy for president in 2020, and Californians and Hawaiians should remember this when Harris and Hirono are up for re-election in 2022 and 2024.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.