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AJR-12 Religious tests for public office.(2019-2020)

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AJR12:v99#DOCUMENT


CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2019–2020 REGULAR SESSION

Assembly Joint Resolution
No. 12


Introduced by Assembly Member Kiley

March 14, 2019


Relative to religious tests for public office.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


AJR 12, as introduced, Kiley. Religious tests for public office.
This measure would condemn any attempt to disqualify an individual for public office on the basis of that individual’s religious beliefs and would affirm that a religious test is a violation of the United States Constitution. The measure would further affirm that the Legislature stands in solidarity with people of all faiths and their rights to pursue public service.
Fiscal Committee: NO  

WHEREAS, The State of California is home to a diverse population including over 11 million Catholics, as well as millions of Muslims, Hindus, Protestants, and other people of faith; and
WHEREAS, The United States of America was founded on the principles of freedom of religion, freedom of conscience, and the separation of church and state; and
WHEREAS, The use of a religious test for federal judges is strictly prohibited by Article VI of the United States Constitution, which states, “The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States”; and
WHEREAS, In Torcaso v. Watkins (1961), the United States Supreme Court further ruled that this prohibition applies to more than federal officeholders, using the religion clauses in the First Amendment to strike down religious tests for any public office in the United States; and
WHEREAS, On September 7, 2017, Senator Dianne Feinstein questioned the qualification of Notre Dame Professor Amy Barrett to serve as a federal judge on the basis of her Catholic faith, telling her that the “dogma” of Catholicism “lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for years in the country”; and
WHEREAS, On December 5, 2018, Senator Kamala Harris questioned the qualification of Nebraska lawyer Brian Buescher to serve as a federal judge on the basis of his Catholic faith, reminding him that he is “a member of the Knights of Columbus, an all-male society comprised primarily of Catholic men”; and
WHEREAS, The suggestion that a judicial nominee should be rejected because of the nominee’s personal beliefs is alarming and without precedent in recent history; and
WHEREAS, These comments evoke painful memories of less inclusive times in this country, such as the skepticism John F. Kennedy faced about his Catholic faith as a candidate for President in 1960 when he warned, “For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been, and may someday be again, a Jew or a Quaker or a Unitarian or a Baptist. . . . Today I may be the victim, but tomorrow it may be you, until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped at a time of great national peril”; and
WHEREAS, Since that time we have made great progress in welcoming people of all backgrounds into public life; and
WHEREAS, Major candidates for President have been Catholic, Jewish, Mormon, and Baptist; and
WHEREAS, Members of Congress include Buddhists, Catholics, Hindus, Jews, Mormons, Muslims, Orthodox Christians, Protestants, and Unitarians; and
WHEREAS, In defense of this progress, on January 16, 2019, the United States Senate unanimously passed a bipartisan resolution affirming that disqualifying a nominee to federal office on the basis of religion is a violation of the United States Constitution; and
WHEREAS, In 2017, the Legislature overwhelmingly passed the California Religious Freedom Act (SB 31) with bipartisan support, which declares that “[f]reedom of religion and protection from persecution on the basis of religion are founding ideals of our nation” and that “California must uphold the protection of religious freedom enshrined in the United States Constitution for all of its people, and the state has a moral obligation to protect its citizens from religious persecution”; now, therefore, be it
Resolved by the Assembly and the Senate of the State of California, jointly, That the Legislature condemns any attempt to disqualify an individual for public office on the basis of that individual’s religious beliefs and affirms that a religious test is a violation of the United States Constitution; and it be further
Resolved, That the Legislature stands in solidarity with people of all faiths and their rights to pursue public service; and it be further
Resolved, That the Chief Clerk of the Assembly transmit copies of this resolution to the President and the Vice President of the United States, to the Majority Leader of the Senate, to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, to each Senator and Representative from California in the Congress of the United States, and to the author for appropriate distribution.