Should A Roman Catholic Be Elected President? -- By: Jesse Johnson

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 085:340 (Oct 1928)
Article: Should A Roman Catholic Be Elected President?
Author: Jesse Johnson


Should A Roman Catholic Be Elected President?

Jesse Johnson

It is at once agreed that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” That is good fundamental law in this country. As that salutary provision occurs in the constitution, its direct reference is to the oaths required of Federal and State officers. No religious test may be inserted in the oath or affirmation. All good Americans want that provision there. It is further granted that while the provision refers directly only to the form of oaths required, the citizen in his voting should be actuated by the same spirit of religious freedom and equality which inspired it.

But what are we to do if a political principle which is distinctly anti-American is included in the “religion” of a candidate? For Roman Catholicism is not a religion merely, it is a Politico-Religious System, and the political ideal of the System is anti-American. There is nothing anti-American in believing in and practicing auricular confession, or in attending Mass and believing that the very flesh and blood of the Savior are consumed, or in any other part of the System that is properly speaking religious. Some might, indeed, think that a man who is credulous enough to believe and practice some things in the religious part of the System has not the hard, practical sense that is desirable in a President; but on that ground many would object to a Presbyterian, who believes in a vicarious atonement, utterly incredible to them, or to one whose denomination believes in the Inner Light, or to one who believes in prayer, or in God. But while a voter has a constitutional right to make up his mind about the mental capacity and general availability of a candidate from all sources, our American way is not to inquire about beliefs and practices that are properly headed up under the term religion.

The political principles which are prominent in the System which a Roman Catholic calls his religion con-

stitute a very different matter. A true American will scan these closely, taking whatever trouble may be necessary to read history and to study closely the pronouncements of authoritative ecclesiastical personages in recent decades as well as in medieval times. It is hardly good Americanism when one is so afraid of being called a bigot that he will not investigate Roman Catholicism to see first, if it has a political side, and, if so, whether its political ideal is anti-American. If a Mohammedan were proposed for president, we might pass by his religious creed, but a broadminded American would inquire whether Mohammedanism still has as its ideal the military conquest and political dominati...

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