There was a debate recently between the Republican candidates for the open senate seat in Iowa. It turned out to be a little bit of a contest between a couple of the candidates on who could most impress the religious conservative wing of the party.
When the candidates were asked about their requirements for a federal judge, there was some discussion that a judge should adhere to God and the Bible.
Candidate Sam Clovis had the best answer (for those in favor of liberty) when he talked about natural law and natural rights.
Candidate Joni Ernst added that a judge should understand that our laws “come from God.”
Candidate Matt Whitaker had the most alarming response. He said, “What I’d like to see are their worldview, what informs them, how do they live their lives, are they people of faith? Do they have a biblical view of justice?” He continued on to say that he would be concerned with a judge who has a secular worldview.
Here, I think we have to make a distinction between basing one’s views on religion and the necessity of adhering to a particular religion.
The major religions teach common law. There are general rules that you don’t do harm to others, you don’t steal from others, etc. When Clovis discussed natural law and natural rights, there is nothing wrong with this. A potential judge, or anyone else, can believe in natural law regardless of whether he holds particular religious beliefs.
If someone believes in natural law and believes those laws are derived from God, there is certainly nothing wrong with this as long as the person is not trying to use force (government or otherwise) in imposing those views on others. But it is also wrong to simply disqualify someone if he believes in natural law but does not derive those beliefs based on his religion.
When some people hear comments such as those made by Whitaker, it makes them run in the opposite direction. I am convinced that there are a sizable number of Democrats out there simply because they fear people like this who want to shove their religion down other people’s throats. And in the case of Whitaker, he is not just trying to use persuasion. He is trying to use the force of government to impose his personal religious views on to others.
In a free society, politics and religion shouldn’t mix. It doesn’t mean that religious people should be kept out of politics or that politicians have to keep quiet about their religious beliefs. It also doesn’t mean that you can’t derive your own moral code based on your religion.
The big question for anyone is if they will allow others to be free. Will they impose their religion, or even certain aspects of their religion, using the force of government?
Any politician running for office, who says that a potential judge should hold certain religious beliefs, is not a friend of liberty. It is a scary thought.
Requiring a judge to have some kind of belief in natural law and natural rights, whether or not those beliefs are derived from God, is positive. If a judge believes that individuals have certain natural rights that can’t be overridden by government laws, then this would be a good thing.
Many of the laws on the books today are not really laws at all, at least in the natural sense. They are only enforced by the use of force. They are not natural and they are not just. You don’t have to be religious to understand that.