The occasion for this speech is yesterday’s pitiful religiously-oriented grilling of judicial nominee Amy Coney Barrett by Dianne Feinstein and Dick Durbin, but Lee’s thinking big picture. This isn’t just about Feinstein and Barrett or Bernie Sanders harassing Russell Vought back in June. Stick with it and you’ll see it’s about progressive “triumphalism” towards the faithful in the culture wars writ large. The reason the Constitution forbids religious tests for office, Lee warns, is so that Americans of all faiths feel invited to serve their country. When you tell a nominee it’s “of concern” that the “dogma lives loudly within” her, you’re telling devout Catholics that their government doesn’t fully trust them. Americans feel alienated enough from their leaders as is, Lee notes, that Congress should take special care not to add religious alienation to the mix.
But over time, that may be inevitable.
More than a quarter of Democrats are religiously unaffiliated; among all adults aged 18-29, most of whom lean left, 38 percent are unaffiliated. None of that’s a problem *if* secularists are committed to maintaining America’s civic heritage, which begins with religious liberty, but this isn’t a golden age for civics in the United States. That’s what Lee has in mind when lamenting “triumphalism.” A rolling lesson of the past few years of progressive cultural victories is that when the left thinks it has the numbers, it’ll try to shut its enemies down rather than accommodate them. Antifa, which has gotten so much attention lately, is just an unusually feral example of that attitude in practice. How do you suppose religious nominees will be viewed by Democratic pols 25 years from now when the share of the party that’s religiously unaffiliated is, say, 40 percent?
Note, by the way, what Lee says about this subject holding special meaning for him because of his own faith. That isn’t some abstract rhetorical point for him. He mentioned religious intolerance last year as well when asked why he refused to endorse Trump, pointing to some of Trump’s comments about Muslims. Quote: “We can get into the fact that he’s wildly unpopular in my state, in part because my state consists of people who are members of a religious minority church. A people who were ordered exterminated by the governor of Missouri in 1838. And statements like that make them nervous.” Memories are understandably long when it comes to religious persecution.