I understand that Congressman Henry Hyde has sent the following letter to Senator Richard Durbin:
I read with some interest comments attributed to you in news reports detailing your Monday meeting with the President’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge John G. Roberts, Jr.
While we may disagree on various domestic and international issues, we have also found common ground over the years on numerous matters of importance to all Americans. As Catholics, we certainly share a common experience, including the awful legacy of anti-Catholic bigotry that permeated American politics well into the 20th Century.
“Irish Need Not Apply” signs were common in the storefront windows of Chicago’s neighborhoods until a few years ago, a bias driven largely by the Catholic faith shared by most Irish-Americans. I want to believe that you do not wish to turn back the clock to that ugly period of our history, and that’s why these comments attributed to you concern me.
No one of our faith — or that of any other denomination or religion — should be excluded from public office for his or her religious values. Article VI of the U.S. Constitution unequivocally prohibits such a litmus test: “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office of public trust under the United States.”
“Practicing Catholics need not apply” cannot become a rallying cry of modern day religious bigots who would seek to drive from the public square all federal office candidates of faith. I hope that your question to Judge Roberts, if accurately reported, does not constitute an opening salvo in a process in which the candidate’s faith will constitute sufficient justification for denying him a speedy confirmation.