Dan O’Donnell uncovers the vein of anti-Christian sentiment running through the opposition to a pair of conservative Wisconsin judges
February 27, 2019
Special Guest Perspective by Dan O’Donnell
It would be impossible for Article VI of the U.S. Constitution to be any clearer: “[N]o religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
Wisconsin’s Constitution, too, is unambiguous: “No religious tests shall ever be required as a qualification for any office of public trust under the state.”
Now, sadly, it appears that religious tests are becoming commonplace in liberal opposition to conservative judges.
Last year, Senator Tammy Baldwin urged President Trump to rescind the nomination of Gordon Giampietro to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, apparently after learning Giampietro is a Catholic who adheres to the teachings of the Catholic Church.
In a letter to Trump, Baldwin cited a 2014 radio interview in which Giampietro expressed his dismay at the U.S. Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, saying the Court had “gone off the rails” by issuing an opinion that is “not really legal reasoning.”
“This statement and others like it cast doubt on his respect for precedent, and were clearly pronouncements on legal issues that Mr. Giampietro should have disclosed to the Nominating Commission,” Baldwin wrote.
It was, of course, nothing of the sort. Giampietro was merely expressing his disagreement with the line of reasoning that a court employed to reach a conclusion. That’s precisely what a federal judge does in issuing opinions from the bench!
It was rather obviously unacceptable to Baldwin only because of the conclusion Giampietro reached; a conclusion, incidentally, that was based on his understanding of the law, not his adherence to his faith.
That didn’t seem to matter to Baldwin, though, as she withdrew her initial support for Giampietro’s nomination over his perceived inability to be impartial.
Her colleague, Republican Senator Ron Johnson, saw through this almost immediately, noting that the Nominating Commission only asked Giampietro to fill out a questionnaire (which he did), not to provide recordings of various media interviews he had done throughout his life.
“Of course, [Baldwin’s] initial opposition, I hate to say it but let’s say it plainly, I fear is because he’s a person of faith. On top of it, now she’s smearing a really good man,” Johnson told The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Baldwin was essentially imposing a remarkably unconstitutional religious test for public service, and the Catholic Giampietro had failed. Because of Baldwin’s objections, President Trump rescinded Giampietro’s nomination last month.
Emboldened by this smear’s effectiveness in taking out one conservative judge, Wisconsin’s liberals are now using it on another.
State Supreme Court candidate Brian Hagedorn, an associate judge on Wisconsin’s Second District Court of Appeals, is an evangelical Christian whose views on gay marriage in 14-year-old blog posts have become the central issue in the race.
Those posts, written in 2005 and 2006, refer to Planned Parenthood as a “wicked organization,” question whether a repeal of anti-sodomy laws would lead to the legalization of bestiality, and espouse the notion “Christianity is the correct religion, and that insofar as others contradict it, they are wrong.”
All of these beliefs—that abortion is a mortal sin, that homosexuality is inherently immoral, and that salvation is only possible through Jesus Christ—are well within the mainstream of Evangelicalism’s (and Christianity’s) teachings.
Given that 70.6% of Americans identify as Christians, 38% view Planned Parenthood unfavorably, and 31% oppose gay marriage, Hagedorn’s views are well within the mainstream of American political opinions. In 2005, when he wrote his supposedly hateful blog posts, 59% of Americans disapproved of gay marriage while just 37% approved. His views weren’t just in the mainstream, they were firmly in the overwhelming majority of American thought.
And he most certainly did not, as his critics claim, draw a moral parallel between homosexuality and bestiality. Instead, he wrote, “the idea that homosexual behavior is different than bestiality as a Constitutional matter is unjustifiable. There is no right in our Constitution to have sex with whoever [sic] or whatever you want in the privacy of your home (or barn). That may or may not be good policy, but that is a different question.”
His contention (which is correct) is that there is no right to marriage, sexual conduct, or love enshrined in the Constitution. What constitutes legal marriage and legal sexual conduct, then, is left to the Congress, the states, and the courts to sort out. The Constitution itself is as silent on sex with a human (male or female) as it is on sex with a horse.
Naturally, this nuance never made it into the Journal Sentinel’s breathless reporting on Hagedorn’s blog posts, which it has turned into something of a crusade against any sort of Christian belief on the bench. Operating more as Hagedorn opponent Lisa Neubauer’s opposition research firm than an actual newspaper, the Journal Sentinel has in recent weeks highlighted a Christian school Hagedorn founded that doesn’t permit homosexual relationships and blasted Hagedorn’s speeches to a conservative Christian group.
That group, Alliance Defending Freedom, is, like Hagedorn, unashamedly Christian. The school Hagedorn founded is, like him, unashamedly Christian. Should his support of either preclude him from holding elected office? The Neubauer campaign, through its spokespeople at the Journal Sentinel, certainly thinks so.
Should Gordon Giampietro’s Catholic faith preclude him from serving on the District Court? Senator Baldwin certainly seems to think so.
In framing adherence to Christian beliefs as bigotry and thus unfitness for public office, Wisconsin’s liberals have established a new religious test that requires candidates to either publicly rebuke their spiritual beliefs or be politically crucified for them.