.- In a letter sent to Senator Richard Durbin regarding what many see as a “religious litmus test” for Supreme Court nominee Judge John G. Roberts, Congressman Henry Hyde warned that ‘practicing Catholics need not apply’ must not become the motto of ‘religious bigots’ 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 “No one of our faith - or that of any other denomination or religion - should be excluded from public office for his or her religious values.”
He cited Article VI of the U.S. Constitution which, he said, “unequivocally prohibits such a litmus test: ‘No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office of public trust under the United States.’”
Hyde recalled the anti-Catholic bigotry which permeated U.S. politics “well into the 20th century”, saying that “’Irish Need Not Apply’ 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.”
“I want to believe”, he added, “that you do not wish to turn back the clock to that ugly period of our history.”
Many fear that Robert’s 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 “the law required a ruling that his church considers immoral”?
Critics have lambasted Durbin for asking what they see as a blatantly pointed question.
“’Practicing Catholics need not apply’”, Hyde said, “cannot 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.”