Yes, I Do Care

If this brief article wishes an answer, that’s mine.  I do care.

While I appreciate the article beginning with a reminder of our Constitutional attitude towards the religion of an individual, it is also misleading.
Article VI of the Constitution deals with a hodge-podge of issues.  The first paragraph assures our partners and supporters internationally that we would not default on our debt through the technicality of saying that the debt was acquired under one government, but now we were effectively a different government, and therefore the debt did not need to be repaid.  Pretty important if you’re hoping for continued assistance from other countries.  The second paragraph stipulates that the Constitution is the highest law in the land.  This assured individual states that they would not be outmanuevered or tricked by other states.  Everyone knew what they were getting into up front.  The third paragraph makes it clear that no public servant can violate the Constitution or hold themselves as exempt or above it in any respect.  Coming out of a monarchial government, our Founding Fathers were keen to ensure that everyone understood that nobody was exempt from or above the law – a tradition of the English monarchy in law if not always in practice since a little gathering at Runnymede a few hundred years earlier. 
And because even in the late 18th century at the dawn of our nation, we were a diverse group of people in terms of religious beliefs (Jews, Catholics, Protestants, etc.), this article assures everyone that the government is not going to impose religious requirements on public officials.  There would be none of the religious feuding that had decimated England and continental Europe due to the tug of war between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism.  People would not fear for their jobs or lives with the change of an administration, as they often had in England with the change of a monarch.  It was not the government’s right or responsibility to determine the religious affiliation of an individual, or to require a particular one – or any one.
This doesn’t mean that we as citizens shouldn’t take an interest in the religious views – or lack thereof – of any person exercising public authority.   And I’m inclined to think that the author – by citing this and only this section of the Constitution – is hoping to influence people to think otherwise.
The confusion of what the State is authorized or required to do, and what ought to be done or considered by citizens of the State seems pervasive and dangerous.  There’s a difference between saying that the government should not mandate certain things, and saying that these things are therefore completely open to interpretation or aren’t important.  The State is not the final measure of all things, as my repeated references to the Declaration of Independence ought to remind us.  But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t things that are vitally important that individuals must concern themselves with.  The intent of the Constitution was in great part to show what things the State couldn’t do.  Based on the backgrounds of our Founding Fathers, the main concern was to limit the authority – and therefore the potential for abuse – of the State.  As such, many things are limited, such as the right of the State to require a religious examination of any public official.  But that doesn’t mean that we as citizens shouldn’t interest ourselves in these things.  
So yes, it matters to me what beliefs my President holds, because these beliefs – if they are any kind of belief at all – will guide and direct the President in making crucial decisions.  What religious views a President does or does not hold should be of interest to every single American citizen, regardless of what religion a citizen happens to be, or whether they profess any religion at all.  If beliefs are linked to how we think and act, then they matter.
It matters to me whether my President subscribes to the Tanakh, the Bible, the Quran , the Bhagavad Gita,  another sacred text, or no sacred text at all.  Each of these sacred texts describes a very different sort of world – how we got here, what we’re supposed to be doing while we’re here, what happens to us when we die, etc.  These assertions about the nature of the world and our role in it ought to heavily influence the thinking and acting of every adherent.  If your thinking and acting aren’t affected, do you really believe?
To suggest that this shouldn’t matter to people is foolishness, but the type of foolishness that is all too commonly touted as wisdom today.  As a Christian, I may acknowledge that a President could be an atheist, or a Muslim, or a Buddhist, and still be very qualified to lead our country.  But I would also be uneasy knowing that my President didn’t necessarily share my core beliefs and values.  Since all religions are not equivalent, (another veiled implication in how this article is structured), of course it matters to me what someone else believes – on any number of levels.
If I believe that my religion is true, I’m concerned at an individual level for that other person, President or otherwise.  I want them to know and benefit from truth as I know and experience it.  I don’t want them to live a life that lacks this Truth, because I want them to be happy and fulfilled (at least, if that’s what my religious beliefs tell me is how things work in the world.  A Buddhist might not worry so much at an individual level since they believe the other person will have another life time to make progress towards truth.).  And then I’m concerned for that individual at the public level.  How will their beliefs find expression in how they carry out their duties?  If there is no expression, then they’re probably not a very devout believer, and that worries me.  If there is expression, I’m going to be wondering what form and shape that will take.  
It isn’t whether or not it should matter to every citizen what belief our elected officials hold.  It should.  And the urgency of that concern should be directly proportional to the level of responsibility and authority that comes with the office in question.  It may not be a big deal to me that my local sanitation official doesn’t believe the same things I do.  But it should matter a great deal to me who has their hand on the Button and who is guiding the relationships between my country and the rest of the world.  It may not determine who I vote for, but it should be something that I consider in that process, and afterwards.

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