Mitt Romney’s Religious Test

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has stated that he would not appoint an otherwise qualified person who happened to be Muslim to his cabinet if he became President:

I asked Mr. Romney whether he would consider including qualified Americans of the Islamic faith in his cabinet as advisers on national security matters, given his position that “jihadism” is the principal foreign policy threat facing America today. He answered, “…based on the numbers of American Muslims [as a percentage] in our population, I cannot see that a cabinet position would be justified. But of course, I would imagine that Muslims could serve at lower levels of my administration.”

Romney, whose Mormon faith has become the subject of heated debate in Republican caucuses, wants America to be blind to his religious beliefs and judge him on merit instead. Yet he seems to accept excluding Muslims because of their religion, claiming they’re too much of a minority for a post in high-level policymaking. More ironic, that Islamic heritage is what qualifies them to best engage America’s Arab and Muslim communities and to help deter Islamist threats.

Romney’s reasoning for excluding Muslim’s from the cabinet, based apparently on their representation in the general population is, to say the least peculiar; especially when you consider that there are apparently more American Muslims than there are American Jews. So even if you accepted Romney’s inane suggestion that the makeup of the cabinet must somehow mirror American society, Romney’s position wouldn’t be consistent with reality.

More importantly, Romey’s blanket ban on Muslim cabinet members would appear to be unconstitutional. Specifically, Article VI states in part:

[N]o religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

In a Romney Administration, the religious test would be pretty straight-forward — you can serve in my Administration as long as you’re not a Muslim.

Of course, it’s ironic that Romney, whose Mormon faith has been, unfairly in my opinion, mentioned on several occasions as a reason we should be concerned about him, should be the one to say that someone’s religious faith per se disqualifies them from serving in his Administration. More than once, in fact, Romney has stated that his faith should not be an issue in the campaign.

But who ever said hypocritical politicians were something new on the scene ?

Update: The New York Times is reporting that Romney says that he was either misquoted or misunderstood:

“His question was: ‘Do I need to have a Muslim in my Cabinet to be able to confront radical jihad and would it be important to have a Muslim in my Cabinet?’” Mr. Romney said, according to ABC News. “And I said no. I don’t think that you have to have a Muslim in the Cabinet to be able to take on radical jihad.”

To be fair to Romney, this explanation would seem to be consistent with the tone of the original article, in which the author basically argues that we should put Muslim’s in the cabinet because failing to do so could lead to another terrorist attack:

[Romney], and other candidates for the presidency from both political parties, should actively begin searching for American Muslims and Arab Americans who can serve in primary decisionmaking cabinet level posts. To do otherwise is to risk promulgating policies that once again put the US straight in the sights of the terrorists who seek to bring America down.

This is, of course, an absurd suggestion. The only considering that President’s need to give in selecting appointees is (1) is the person qualified for the position in question and (2) are they in basic agreement with my agenda ? Everything else, including the religious faith, or lack thereof, of the candidate in question, is irrelevant.

Update No.2: It looks like Mitt’s flip-flopping on this story may get him in more trouble than the comment itself:

Presidential canidate Mitt Romney has discounted appointing Muslims to his cabinet on more than just the one occasion reported in a CSM op-ed yesterday.

TPM Election Central has learned that at a private fundraising lunchleon in LV three months ago, Romney said he would probably not appoint a Muslim to his cabinet and made other comments that one witness described as “racist.”

Making this story potentially worse for Romney, the witnesses, Irma Aguirre, a former finance director of the Nevada Republican Party, paraphrased Romney as saying: “They’re radical. There’s no talking to them. There’s no negotiating with them.”

A second witness, a self-described local registered Republican named George Harris, confirmed her account.

The sad truth of the matter is that there’s enough anti-Muslim bigotry out there that Romney’s remark may not hurt him at all in the primaries.

H/T: James Joyner

  • Kevin

    Is anybody surprised that Mitt Romney has not only changed his mind on religious tests for office once, but has now changed his mind on the subject again.

    No wonder why he’s called Multiple Choice Mitt.

  • LBest

    Putting a Muslim in a high level government post will not stop another attack by radicals. They are radicals and are not interested in talking. Besides if we are to believe that only a small % of muslims are radicals then a non-radical muslim would be of no use in speaking to them. The same logic is radical mormans that believe a few wifes are ok but hey if we put a morman in office he can talk some sense into them. A radicals faith is not the same as a non radicals faith no matter what religion you are talking about.