Thursday, March 14, 2019

ADF Lawyer, In Defending Hagedorn's Bigotry, Makes Disingenuous Claim About The Constitution

The Constitution bars religious restrictions for office-holders to seek office — but restrictions for voters' considerations do not exist

The Brian Hagedorn saga continues, this time with a questionable line of defense coming from an organization he's been paid to speak for in the past.

Lawyer Timothy Chandler works for the Alliance Defending Freedom, an organization that takes up causes on behalf of Christians who often have extremist and bigoted viewpoints. Chandler recently wrote an op-ed for the Capital Times in Madison, where he argued on behalf of Hagedorn and defended his past comments as nothing more than a mere promotion of his Christian beliefs.

Those who took issue with Hagedorn's comments were "guilty of applying a religious test that’s discriminatory and at odds with Article VI of the U.S. Constitution," Chandler wrote. "These words might first have been penned with quill and ink, but the message is timeless: No public office-holder should be screened, tested, or maligned for his or her personal religious convictions."

Wisconsin Supreme Court/Wikimedia
As a lawyer, Chandler should know better: his comments are playing very loose with the facts. For starters, Hagedorn's comments went beyond what most people might find acceptable. He maligned altering laws that would allow for gay individuals to have consensual relationships, for example, suggesting that undermining those laws would allow people to have sex with animals.

If you can't understand the difference between a man and a man having a consensual relationship, versus a person (male or female) having sexual relations with a different species, I'm sorry — you don't deserve to be a state Supreme Court justice. Hagedorn did just that, and hasn't suggested his views on this topic have changed. He has only defended his previous statements (once they were brought forth publicly this year) as his "religious" viewpoints that didn't deserve condemnation.

Hagedorn also attacked those making criticisms of his viewpoints as being anti-religious.

"Some of the arguments made against me are a blatant attempt not just against me but against people of faith more generally," Hagedorn has said.

It's a defense that makes sense, at least from a strategic lens: don't defend your problems, but create a straw man argument that you can successfully defend against. However, no one is attacking Hagedorn for his religious rights, and his commentary (when he originally wrote it) was under the guise of a legal view, not a faith-based one.

Chandler's defense of Hagedorn is, much like Hagedorn's own defense of his past comments, misleading. But so too is Chandler's interpretation of Article VI of the Constitution.

Chandler wrote in his op-ed that the Constitution protects candidates against being "screened, tested, or maligned for his or her personal religious convictions." Were he to actually read the Constitution (not the one he imagines was published, but the real document), he'd realize that he is wrong on this point as well.

The part of Article VI that deals with religious tests simply states that office-holders won't be barred from serving on the basis of their beliefs. It doesn't prevent voters from considering them when casting their votes.

Here's the partial text of that article: religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.
In other words, if you or I have a qualm with a candidate for their beliefs, we're free to exercise our respective rights to vote based on those issues we have.

In this specific state Supreme Court election, if Hagedorn's bigoted beliefs cause voters to think he may not be an impartial judge, even if his beliefs are based on religious convictions, it's fine for us to bring them up and discuss them, and urge others not to support his candidacy based on those beliefs. It's not an attack on Hagedorn's right to hold those beliefs, but rather a recognition of our own rights to not view them as positive traits for a justice to have.

Chandler's op-ed is disingenuous, to say the least. It's not surprising — his organization presently promotes and defends the same bigoted lines of thought that Hagedorn seems to have put forward in the past. His comments in the Cap Times should be largely ignored.

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