Just Between Us: Maybe it’s a bad time to say it, but the idea that we can never have a “religious test” for immigration — a righteous principle declared, to great applause, by Paul Ryan and to less applause by President Obama — is untenable, if not mildly insane. Sure, it may work for nice, bourgeois religions like Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism and, arguably, modern Islam (one reason Trump’s plan is misguided). But it’s not at all hard to think of religions so vile that it would be virtually impossible to justify not excluding people who believed them. Imagine, say, a religion that required its adherents to murder random people to demonstrate the superficiality of earthly life, to placate a bloodthirsty deity, or just to prove their faith. “The Thuggee were a religion. Jonestown was religious,” one NRO commenter has noted. Thinking that the world’s great mainstream religions are the only possible faiths is what Marxists call “reification.”
Ryan made a point of praising “Muslims, the vast, vast, vast, vast majority of whom are peaceful, who believe in pluralism and freedom and democracy and individual rights.” OK! But what if the vast, vast majority of a particular religion were not peaceful, did not believe in pluralism and democracy and individual rights? Do we let them in too? … A million of them? … A hundred million? … Can’t have a “religious test,” after all. … It wouldn’t be hard for a beginning law professor to explode Ryan’s principle with a barrage of hypotheticals. Ryan’s own “vast, vast, vast, vast” (yes, there were four of them) argument suggests that which believers to admit isn’t an issue of principle after all but an empirical question. Most religions — sure! Others, na-uh. It’s way too simple to just say, with Obama, that we shouldn’t discriminate against someone because of “the faith they practice.”
P.S.: Religious inquiries, in this sense, are a subset of seemingly valid ideological tests that would weed out would-be immigrants strongly opposed to “who we are,” as the current cliche describes American values. Why should a murderous anti-democratic ideology get a free pass just because it calls itself a faith or concerns itself with grand cosmological issues? If Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declares that he’s a god, do we have to wave his believers through customs?
Once we let people in and they become citizens, we’re stuck with them, so we have to be at least a little picky! Do you have confidence that our current powers of assimilation can soon turn sincerely non-freedom-loving people [don’t fight the hypothetical!] into democracy’s defenders? What about those who might believe with firm conviction in death for offensive writing, for homosexuals, for fornicators generally, etc.?
Safer to build democracy, free speech and tolerance with immigrants who believe in democracy, free speech, and tolerance, no?