Best columns: The U.S.
Democrats’ religious test for judges
Should faithful Christians be barred from serving as judges? It seems like an absurd question, said David Harsanyi, but Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee suggested just that last week in questioning federal appeals court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, a practicing Roman Catholic and former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Setting an ugly tone, Sen. Dianne Feinstein said that Barrett’s previous writings indicate that “the dogma lives loudly within you.” Sen. Dick Durbin asked Barrett, “Do you consider yourself an orthodox Catholic?” No question about it: The committee’s Democrats were subjecting Barrett to the “religious test” banned by the Constitution. In the past, Barrett has freely indicated that “faith informs her views,” but has expressly said that if confronted with a case that conflicted with her Catholic beliefs—such as ordering an execution in a death-penalty case—she would recuse herself. She has also said that as a judge, she is obligated to interpret and apply the Constitution and the law, not her own beliefs. That should satisfy any questions about her fitness to serve on the federal bench. For Democrats, however, the only acceptable religion for public officials is “orthodox liberalism.”
Why Trump may legalize ‘Dreamers’
“It would seem bizarre for Donald Trump’s sole legislative achievement to be the negation of his central campaign theme,” said Jonathan Chait. But “the implausible has become suddenly plausible”: With Democratic votes, Trump could actually pass legislation protecting the “Dreamers,” the 800,000 immigrants brought to this country illegally as children. Trump “rode anti-immigrant sentiment to the presidency,” but he “cares more about positive feedback and good press” than about any policy position. Indeed, he’s recently professed “a love” for the Dreamers. His recent bipartisan deal with Democrats on the debt ceiling got him the positive attention he craves, and he “will probably want to tap the bar for another pleasure hit.” Because of the cult of personality that is Trumpism, he could easily sell his base on a compromise with the Democrats. It would couple Dreamer legalization with heightened border security measures—perhaps increased drone surveillance and additional fencing—that “Trump can call a ‘wall’ and Democrats can call ‘not a wall.’” Both sides could claim victory, “the classic lubricant of any political negotiation.” Thanks to the peculiar politics of the Trump era, legalizing the Dreamers “is not just a dream.”
Pretending that gays don’t exist
The Nashville Statement sounds like “the death rattle” of a religious movement stuck in the 19th century, said Sarah Jones. The statement, recently issued by the Tennessee-based Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, declares unequivocally that “adopting a homosexual or transgender self-conception” is in itself a sin. The 187 prominent evangelical leaders who signed the statement say God intended all human beings to be either male or female, and sex to occur only within heterosexual marriage. It’s no shock, of course, that evangelicals are opposed to homosexuality. But the Biblical literalists who issued this statement see the rising acceptance of gay people and gay marriage as a threat to their patriarchal worldview, in which women and men have “distinct roles.’’ So the statement insists that same-sex orientation—and transgender identity—are mere “psychological conditions” and are inherently immoral. No “faithful Christian,” the statement says, may disagree with this view. Millions of Christians do adamantly disagree, including the 47 percent of evangelicals under age 53 who support marriage equality. The Nashville Statement only reveals the religious right’s “deep insecurity” over its waning influence over how Americans think.