.- In a letter sent to Senator Richard Durbin regarding what many see as a âreligious litmus testâ for Supreme Court nominee Judge John G. Roberts, Congressman Henry Hyde warned that âpracticing Catholics need not applyâ must not become the motto of âreligious bigotsâ operating in the public square. As Judge Roberts faces what many see as an unjust line of scrutiny centered around his being Catholic, largely led by Senator Durbin, (himself a Catholic), Hyde said that âNo one of our faith - or that of any other denomination or religion - should be excluded from public office for his or her religious values.â
He cited Article VI of the U.S. Constitution which, he said, âunequivocally prohibits such a litmus test: âNo religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office of public trust under the United States.ââ
Hyde recalled the anti-Catholic bigotry which permeated U.S. politics âwell into the 20th centuryâ, saying that ââIrish Need Not Applyâ signs were common in the storefront windows of Chicago's neighborhood until a few years ago, a bias driven largely by the Catholic faith shared by most Irish-Americans.â
âI want to believeâ, he added, âthat you do not wish to turn back the clock to that ugly period of our history.â
Many fear that Robertâs Catholic faith could color his decisions on judicial matters--particularly that of the legality of abortion. Senator Durbin reportedly asked Roberts recently what he would do if âthe law required a ruling that his church considers immoralâ?
Critics have lambasted Durbin for asking what they see as a blatantly pointed question.
ââPracticing Catholics need not applyââ, Hyde said, âcannot become a rallying cry of modern day religious bigots who would seek to drive from the public square all federal office candidates of faith. I hope that your question to Judge Roberts, if accurately reported, does not constitute an opening salvo in a process in which the candidate's faith will constitute sufficient justification for denying him a speedy confirmation.â