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Who Let The Dogma Out?

Tulsi Gabbard is having none of the “the dogma lives loudly within you” shtick.

The phrase “the dogma lives loudly with you” entered the American political lexicon when President Trump nominated Catholic judge Amy Coney Barrett to a federal circuit. Since then, it has taken on a greater meaning as some politicians have harangued appointees because of their religious beliefs.

I wrote about it in April when Mike Pompeo was nominated to replace Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State.

And we find that the phrase is relevant again as a democratic candidate for president has taken a surprising stance on loud living dogma within appointees.

National Review offered this introduction to the dogma debacle “Representative Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat from Hawaii, published an op-ed in The Hill [January 9th], implicitly criticizing two of her fellow Democratic congresswomen for subjecting a judicial nominee to a religious test as a result of his Catholic faith and his long-time membership in the Knights of Columbus. Though she doesn’t mention them by name, Gabbard was referring to Democratic senators Kamala Harris (Calif.) and Mazie Hirono (Hawaii), both of whom have targeted federal judicial nominee Brian Buescher for his Catholicism, and the latter of whom has demanded that he drop his membership in the Knights and recuse himself from any case on which the organization has taken a position.”

Gabbard’s op-ed leads with this, “For too long in our country, politicians have weaponized religion for their own selfish gain, fomenting bigotry, fears and suspicions based on the faith, religion or spiritual practices of their political opponents. Whether we think of ourselves as Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Sikh, Buddhists, Jews, atheists, agnostics, or anything else, it is imperative that we stand united in our commitment to protect religious freedom and the right to worship or not worship, safely and without the fear of retribution.” 

She then added, “While I oppose the nomination of Brian Buescher to the U.S. District Court in Nebraska, I stand strongly against those who are fomenting religious bigotry, citing as disqualifiers Buescher’s Catholicism and his affiliation with the Knights of Columbus. If Buescher is “unqualified” because of his Catholicism and affiliation with the Knights of Columbus, then President John F. Kennedy, and the ‘liberal lion of the Senate’ Ted Kennedy would have been “unqualified” for the same reasons.  Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution clearly states that there “shall be no religious test” for any seeking to serve in public office. No American should be told that his or her public service is unwelcome because “the dogma lives loudly within you” as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said to Amy Coney Barrett during her confirmation hearings in 2017 to serve as U.S. Circuit Court judge in the 7th Circuit. While I absolutely believe in the separation of church and state as a necessity to the health of our nation, no American should be asked to renounce his or her faith or membership in a faith-based, service organization in order to hold public office.”

Gabbard’s critique of Feinstein and Harris is noteworthy for several reasons.

1: Gabbard’s office has no bearing on the nomination of Buescher.  As a member of the House, Gabbard plays no role in the confirmation of appointees.  She has no reason to speak out against the practice since her opinion holds no official weight.  This tells me that she sees a serious problem in the conduct of Feinstein and Harris.  Senators may be show-boaters and may seek to use any attack necessary to halt a nomination.  House members rarely have a reason to voice an opinion on such matters. Given the political climate, Gabbard has much to risk by voicing this opinion.

2: Gabbard’s reliance on the text of the constitution to make her case is reassuring.  Article VI says “The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, 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.” While I will get into the history of the clause in the next point, I want to point out that the clause is not merely a reflection of the desire to avoid religious entanglements in government, it is also a tacit admission that differing religious opinions are not just allowed, but welcomed. The phrase “Oath or Affirmation” is an enumerated accommodation of religious practices and beliefs in government.  Some religious groups at the time refused to take oaths, preferring to affirm statements.  A Quaker may affirm that a statement is true, or that they will uphold the constitution, or that the subject of a warrant is accurate, but they will not swear to it. The framers wanted this type of inclusion in the constitution.

3: Gabbard’s obligatory paeans to separation of church and state neglect history no matter how correct she is in her critique of Feinstein and Harris. Separation of Church and State is a made up concept that values a progressive secular society above the moral and religious society envisioned by John Adams.  It’s taken out of context.  Everyone assumes that the state is supposed to protect itself from the church.  The true meaning of the phrase, as found in a letter from Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists, is that the state is supposed to protect the church from the state. It’s funny how the purpose of banning test oaths was to prohibit scenarios where an Anglican government discriminates against Baptists or a Congregationalist government discriminates against Catholics.  According to Adams and Emmerich, in their work on religious liberty, the adoption of the test oath clause was so uncontroversial that it garnered little debate.  They cite a delegate from Maryland, who, in the wisdom of his day, illustrates the irony of how pseudo-test oaths are being used today. He says, “[The test oath clause] was adopted by a great majority of the convention and without much debate; however, there were some members so unfashionable as to think, that a belief of the existence of a Deity, and of a state of future rewards and punishments would be some security for the good conduct of our rulers, and that, in a Christian country, it would be at least decent to hold out some distinction between professors of Christianity and downright infidelity or paganism.” Adams and Emmerich also discuss Article 16 of the Virginia Declaration of Rights.  It says “That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practise Christian forbearance, love, and charity toward each other.” Yet we have reached a point where it’s not Christians in government turning their noses to atheist appointees, but secularists who are scared to death of Christians in government.  Secular and civil society are increasingly off limits when secularists want to define acceptable conduct for Christians. If the musings of an unknown delegate and the singular admonition of a colonial government aren’t enough, consider the words of James Madison in Federalist 51. He says “In a free government the security for civil rights must be the same as that for religious rights.” Now this has no meaning by itself, but when we understand the context of the time and the circumstances in the present, we see that what was once sacred and primary i.e. the right of every man to exercise his religion as he sees fit, has become perverse and secondary to the rights that are civil and secular in nature.  This represents a shift in the origin of rights.  Civil rights are easily constrained when we view them as products of government beneficence.  But the right to worship God doesn’t come from government.  When religious rights are marginalized by secularists, the inherent nature of all other rights begins to crumble. This is why Madison says that civil rights must be valued like religious rights.  Ultimately, they come from God, not man. 

Tulsi Gabbard is somewhat of an enigma. She took a considerable risk in calling out Senator Feinstein and Senator Harris. She has no reasonable expectation of any reward from the left for taking a stand for religious liberty, especially the liberty of Catholic Trump appointees.  She published the op-ed before she announced her decision to run for president in 2020.  Maybe it’s a strictly political ploy to make herself palatable to independents, moderates, and conservatives.  Maybe it’s a deeply held conviction that the left has ignored for too long.  Maybe the secularists are doing that much damage to religious liberty that even the left is outraged.


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