OPINION: The Dangers of a Religious Test

By Keith Beardslee

With threats to religious liberty on the rise, we should be able to rely on leaders in both parties to take action against those who advance religious bigotry. Unfortunately, in Washington, some are fanning the flames instead of standing up for the religious freedoms protected under our First Amendment.

“Do not apply” appears to be a new message for some U.S. Senators who want nominees to face an unconstitutional religious test when they have a personal disagreement with the views of a nominee’s religious faith. Most recently, the Knights of Columbus were singled out by two Democratic U.S. Senators, including one who is now running for President, as a group in which membership they believe is a disqualifier for public service.

The Knights of Columbus was founded in 1882 by Father Michael McGivney as a Catholic fraternal and charitable organization. The Knights are a highly-respected organization promoting service to the church, our families and our communities. They engage in numerous acts of charity like supporting the Special Olympics, ensuring children have warm coats, and helping local food banks to name a few. The Knights are not a political organization as some in Washington would have you believe.

The controversy started when Democratic U.S. Senators Kamala Harris of California and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii questioned the ability of Brian Buescher, a U.S. District Court nominee from Nebraska, to be impartial because of his membership in the Knights of Columbus. The suggestion was clear, renounce your religious beliefs, renounce your affiliation with the Knights, or there will be no place for you in the public square. Intentional or not, their message will most certainly have the side effect of intimidating other members of the Knights from considering public service.

The recent attacks on the Knights of Columbus are an attack on our religious liberty. The great thing about our country is the freedom we have to worship as we choose. This freedom also means you can choose not to worship. Regardless of your religious beliefs, no one should be subjected to a religious test to determine if they are fit to hold a position in the public square.

The Knights of Columbus are only the latest group targeted for their faith. There is a rising tide of anti-Semitism in the U.S., especially on college campuses where students are being indoctrinated into a hateful and ugly ideology. No matter how divided we are as a country, I hope we can at least agree that when Washington attempts to push people who practice their faith to the fringe of society, it takes a step down a dangerous pathway.

Americans who wish to serve the public at the highest levels should be tested on their merits. They should not face a religious test.

Keith Beardslee is a member of Knights of Columbus Council 2117.