The notion that the First Amendment prevents Congress from establishing a religious litmus test is moot. The American people have already done it.
Statistics (not at hand, sorry to admit) show the American people are far more religious than our European counterparts. A substantial number of Americans believe that Angels dwell among us and intercede on our behalf in earthly affairs; that they are the agents of an onmiscient omnipotent disembodied power that has a special relationship with a chosen people. A very large percentage of Christian fundamentalists believe further that the Bible predicts a series of events generally called the End Times; a highly choreographed set of dominoes that must fall in a sequence foretold in coded verses in the books of Daniel and Revelation that must transpire before Jesus’ return to establish his kingdom on Earth.
Never mind that the Bible tells us no man knows the time of Christ’s return. Predicting an End Time event such as the Rapture—scheduled for a late afternoon on May 21st, 2011 according to a California-based preacher named Harold Camping—is a veritable cottage industry among people self-described as premillennial dispensationalists. Look that up in your Funk & Wagnall’s. Predicted dates come and go, which only reinforces the inscrutablility of God.
Among the events that must transpire are several that can already be claimed by PDs (my abbreviation for premillennial dispensationalists), such as the creation of the State of Israel. Many PDs fully intend to intercede in this series of necessary events—the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem on the Temple Mount and the sacrifice there of the “spotless calf”—with the Battle of Armageddon as its penultimate crescendo. I, for one, hope that a nuclear conflict in the Middle East can be avoided—at pretty much any cost, though I also hope you’ll let me in on the list of options that might avoid Armageddon. But look into the theology of PDs and you will see an outright longing for those tumultuous times. Among those prominent candidates for political office in the 2012 campaign you will find the names of Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann: replay their youtube clips and you will find them riddled with End Times references. There is actually a group if PDs in Kansas who are breeding the requisite “spotless calf” to be sacrificed at the restored Temple of Solomon. I don’t make this stuff up!
So, here is my litmus test for presidential candidates: if you’re a premillennial dispensationalist and you eagerly anticipate the ultimate battle betwixt Good and Evil as the opening act for Jesus’ triumphal return, then please don’t seek my vote to put your index finger on the Big Red Button.