Taking Religion Seriously
Perhaps, but not necessarily. True, Article VI of the Constitution prohibits "religious Test[s]" as a "Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States." But, as Linker notes, "defending the constitutional right of every qualified citizen to run for office is not the same as saying that a candidate's religious views should be a matter of indifference to voters." It is also true, I think, that there is a real danger that questions about the political implications of the beliefs of those who profess (what are perceived as) non-traditional or non-mainstream can traffic in ignorance and prejudice. Those who raise concerns like Linker's have an obligation, it seems fair to say, to take particular care to get the facts right about the religious traditions and teachings they address, and not to go after cartoonish straw-men.
I am sure that, in many quarters, conversations about Romney's religion (or, to go back a few months, then-Judge Roberts's Catholicism) are distorted by inaccurate understandings of Mormonism, or plain prejudice. This is unfortunate. That said, it strikes me that the response of religious believers to questions like Linkers' should not be to insist that religious beliefs are "private," and therefore irrelevant to public life. An appropriate respect for religious freedom and individual conscience does not require us -- those of us who profess religious beliefs and those who do not -- to act as if religious commitments lack content and have no implications for believers’ actions and policies. What exactly these implications are is something that, it seems to me, believers and non-believers alike should think hard -- and fairly and honestly -- about.