Religion, politics, and bigotry

No, the Democrats in the Senate aren’t “discriminating against people of faith.”

Question for Professor Bainbridge and John non-Volokh:

If someone who had a religiously motivated belief that all non-Muslims should be forced to convert to Islam on pain of death were rejected for a judicial appointment, would that, too, be “religious discrimination”?

Or, to bring it closer to home, how about someone with a religious objection to the death penalty running for Governor? Would it be “religious discrimination” for his opponent to make the death penalty an issue in the race?

Unless people completely separate their religious beliefs from their actions, some beliefs held on religious grounds will be relevant to politics. Criticizing someone for his politically-relevant beliefs, as opposed to his religion, cannot legitimately be called “religious discrimination.”

Of course, if the Vatican continues to demand that Catholic civil servants defy the law whenever it conflicts with Catholic teachings, it will be difficult to be both a faithful Catholic and a good republican citizen and officeholder. But that isn’t a problem created by the opponents of politicized Catholicism, is it now?

And it goes without saying to describe the issue has “hostility to people of faith,” as if anyone who isn’t a conservative religious fanatic must have no religion at all, is profoundly offensive. If the Senate Democrats are hostile to the twelve Bush nominees they’re holding up because those nominees are “men and women of faith,” does that mean that the 206 Bush nominees the Senate has confirmed were all atheists?

An accusation of religious bigotry is a very grave accusation. Prof. Bainbrige should consider whether the evidence in this case justifies his throwing it around so freely.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: