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Walker, Sen. Lankford Lead Prayer Caucus Effort, Sending Letter to AG Sessions to Reaffirm No Religious Tests for Government Positions

July 6, 2017
Press Release
Walker, Sen. Lankford, 62 Members: "The right to the free exercise of religion – to practice any faith at all – is a fundamental human right of all people."

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Representative Mark Walker (R-N.C.) and U.S. Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.) led and effort to send a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions asking him to reaffirm that no religious tests will ever be required to run for office or serve in government positions. The letter is in response to “questions asked during a recent Senate Budget Committee Hearing about an executive branch nominee’s adherence to the Christian faith, suggesting that such beliefs disqualified the nominee from service.”

The video of that exchange can be seen here and above, where U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) criticizes Russ Vought, nominee to serve as Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget, for his Christian beliefs. 

The letter, which cites legal authority in Article VI of the United States Constitution, is signed by U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), U.S. Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Chairman of the House Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. Representative Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, U.S. Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), Chair of the House Republican Conference, and U.S. Representative Gregg Harper (R-Miss.), Chairman of the Committee on House Administration.

The letter states, in part:

"While there is continuous debate about the scope and meaning of the religion clauses in the First Amendment, the text of Article VI has been clear: no religious test shall ever (emphasis added) be required as a qualification to any public office or public trust under the United States."

"The free exercise of religion means the ability to practice your faith without fear of punishment by the government. The government violates that right if it determines which faith or non-faith practices are valid or which aspects of a particular faith are legitimate. As such, we urge you to make clear in your forthcoming guidance that the scope and meaning of Article VI has not changed: no religious test will ever be required to serve in the government of the United States." 

The full text of the letter and list of 64 signers can be found here.

You can learn more about the letter in the USA Today story "Republicans ask Jeff Sessions to reaffirm no religious tests for government posts" here and learn more about the exchange between Sanders and Vought in The Atlantic story "Bernie Sanders's Religious Test for Christians in Public Office" here.