Lost amid the sexual harassment and misconduct charges against Roy Moore over the past month is the fact that even before any of those allegations came to light, Republicans in Washington were deathly afraid of what the prospect of Moore in the Senate could do to the overall party brand.
Moore’s views on a variety of issues – from same-sex marriage to Muslims serving in Congress (among lots and lots of other things) – are well outside the mainstream of conservative thought and his willingness to voice those views loudly opens Republicans up to criticism that they are a party of old white men who have tolerance issues.
Witness the interview between CNN’s Jake Tapper and Moore spokesman Ted Crockett on Tuesday afternoon. Crockett responded “probably” when Tapper pressed him on whether Moore believed homosexuality should be illegal. Then came this exchange between Tapper and Crockett over Muslims serving in Congress. I’m excerpting a big chunk of it because, well, you’ll see.
TAPPER: Judge Moore has also said that he doesn’t think a Muslim member of Congress should be allowed to be in Congress. Why? Under what provision of the Constitution?
CROCKETT: Because you have to swear on the Bible – when you are before – I had to do it. I’m an elected official, three terms, I had to swear on a Bible. You have to swear on a Bible to be an elected official in the United States of America. He alleges that a Muslim cannot do that, ethically, swearing on the Bible.
TAPPER: You don’t actually have to swear on a Christian bible, you can swear on anything, really. I don’t know if you knew that. You can swear on a Jewish Bible.
CROCKETT: Oh no. I swore on the Bible. I’ve done it three times.
TAPPER: I’m sure you have, I’m sure you’ve picked a Bible but the law is not that you have to swear on a Christian Bible. That is not the law. You don’t know that? All right. Ted Crockett with the Moore –
CROCKETT: I don’t know. I know that Donald Trump did it when he – when we made him President.
TAPPER: Because he’s Christian and he picked it. That’s what he wanted to swear in on. Ted Crockett with the Moore campaign. Good luck tonight. Thank you so much for being here. My panel will react when we get back
CROCKETT: Merry Christmas, Jake.
TAPPER: Thank you, sir.
So so so.
Let’s first deal with the facts: Not only is there no requirement that a member of Congress be sworn into office on a Bible, the Constitution expressly forbids there being any such religious requirement. It’s right here in Article VI, Clause 3 (bolding mine):
“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.”
“No religious test” means that you can’t require someone to swear on the Bible or the Koran or any other book.
So, Crockett is simply wrong (or misinformed) on the merits of his argument – which Tapper notes.
What’s amazing/terrifying is how Crockett reacts when confronted with the fact that there is no constitutional directive that members of Congress be sworn in on a Bible.
“Oh no,” Crockett responds at first. “I swore on the Bible. I’ve done it three times.”
That Crockett has done so is all well and good. For Crockett. It has roughly zero bearing on that little thing called the Constitution.
Think of it this way. I may take lefts on red lights all the time without ever getting a ticket or getting in an accident. But, my anecdotal experience in turning left on red does nothing to change the fact that traffic laws state that you cannot turn left on red. My experience, while important to me, isn’t reflective of any broader conclusion.
When Tapper makes that point to Crockett, the Moore spokesman tries a slightly different tack.
“I know that Donald Trump did it when he – when we made him President,” Crockett notes.
Yes! True! Donald Trump is of the Christian faith and decided to be sworn in as the 45th President on a Bible!
But, again, totally irrelevant when it comes to the broader argument over whether or not it is constitutional for a member of Congress to be sworn in on something other than a Bible!
Crockett’s personal experience – just like my personal experience or your personal experience – does not matter in an argument over whether Muslims can serve in Congress. At all.
Well, at least we’re saying “Merry Christmas” again! (And, yes, you can thank Trump for that.)