To the editor:
In her letter “The lesser of two evils,” of Sept. 15, Jarryl Larson asks us (four times) to consider a candidate’s “education-religion background” as a major criterion in choosing who is most worthy of our votes.
I must disagree. Our candidates already have those backgrounds. If the writer is asking us to consider a candidate’s degree of religiosity, why then, there is no way of knowing what that is.
Nevertheless, we should object to personal faith as a determinant for choosing who is best to serve all citizens. Article VI of the U.S. Constitution states, “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” Thus, while moderators of candidates forums, and even clergy, expect every candidate to uphold the Constitution, they violate the candidate’s very constitutional right by imposing religious tests on him or her. Ask Bernie Sanders.
What should be our guidelines in choosing a representative? First and foremost, we should look for a candidate’s knowledge of the U.S. Constitution, the amendments, and the Bill of Rights, as guides in his or her decision-making. (As one lawmaker in a southern state reminded another, “You placed your hand on the Bible and swore to support the Constitution. You did not place your hand on the Constitution and swear to support the Bible.”) This need of knowledge should be blindingly obvious. We must also insist on a candidate’s sense of fairness as a prerequisite qualification for office.
We are familiar with the protest “it isn’t fair!” from children. Babies have been shown to have an innate sense of fairness. Even chimpanzees do. All revolutions begin as protests against unfairness. Protests against denial of voters’ access, for equal rights, for Black Lives Matter, for respect for women’s rights, etc., are all demands for fairness. Our country was founded on fair and equal rights for each individual. We are angry at the unfairness of the 1 percent prospering at the expense of the 99 percent. We are angry knowing it is unfair for the wealthy and celebrities to be treated as “more equal” than the rest of us. We don’t rebel in our anger with violence, with muskets and swords, but with protests and votes.
We are witnessing a firestorm of “patriotic” reactions against those who will not swear the Pledge of Allegiance, or refuse to stand for the national anthem. Those citizens are exercising their First Amendment right of free speech. It is ironic anyone would castigate them as unpatriotic because they choose to exercise the very rights the pledge and anthem are supposed to support.
We have also heard, “The First Amendment guarantees the freedom of religion, not from religion.” Those who say this are not considering what “freedom” means. The Ninth Amendment has a single sentence, stating, “The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” In other words, freedom from religion is also our right.
Our nation is in trouble whenever its electorate does not know our country’s foundational laws.