For a Black American that went to a certain church, some very bright students, they heard that the establishment thought they were crazy and should be locked out of power. Or so a confident, establishment editor was willing to tell students in a Presidential election year.
The lecture was brilliant, until it was not, as a group of honors high school students heard a senior editor of the Rochester, New York Gannett paper tell them that any Pentecostal or charismatic Christian was disqualified from being President by nature of their religious beliefs. She told the kids in the room that none of them, no matter their political views, should be in office if they were part of one of the largest religious movements in the world. Being a charismatic was so irrational no (white intellectual) could vote for such person: not even the Church of God in Christ.
If she thought your prayer life was silly, this major media editor said, you should be excluded from office. I called the ACLU to ask if this was acceptable to them, but they responded that this was not a group or cause they wished to defend. Some religious are more defended than others.
I mention this, not because religious views and practices should not examined. They should be. However, they should be examined in the context of the political system that has served Americans so well, the polity of John Locke, Christian apologist and world class philosopher. He helped us create a government where “all men were created equal.” Of course, Locke himself fell short of his own ideas when it came to slavery. The good news, such as it is, that his deepest principles allowed us to criticize Locke. He was one step on the way to a better world. If we have surpassed him, thank God, we still used him as a step to the beloved community. We build on the good, while discarding the bad. We owe this to the genius of enlightened people.
This elitist editor, who eliminated a whole class of Americans from service, was not examining ideas, merely deploying prejudice, secure in her elite privilege. She knew nobody would do anything and nobody did anything. This was a long time ago, but it happened and I have no reason to think things have gotten better. If you worship at the church that finds roots in Aksum, are you allowed your global Christian values? Or do you have to bow the knee? If you agree with Pope Francis on marriage, then are you are eliminated from service? If you think Billy Graham had things right, then are you inherently irrational? If you are in India, Kenya, Nigeria, do you count to such folk? What about religious people (Muslim, Christian, and many others) in atheist China? Do they count?
There are Internet click-bait atheists who say they do not, but fortunately not most of the better thinkers. But even if the bigots prevailed, as they did in Woodrow Wilson’s era, then we should fight them. We sadly did not fight hard enough when Wilson was President, when Thomas Dixon wrote bigoted books, and Birth of a Nation was filmed.
Christians are a super-majority in the United States. We always have been a super-majority. We have done many things wrong (see slavery, Jim Crow, and First Nations), but relatively speaking in world history have always been a possibility of something better than we are doing. Why? Christianity told us to love our enemies and condemned any “might makes right” ideology. That counts.
So when anyone, especially people with little sympathy and knowledge, condemn a person based on religious belief, we say: “No.” Why? We learned that right makes might.
Don’t let anyone, ever, steal the dream of any student based on the religious beliefs of their families.