A prominent conservative think-tank warns that a provision in H.R. 1 passed by the U.S. House contains an unconstitutional “religious test” for those wanting to serve on independent redistricting commissions.
The Family Research Council, a socially conservative think-tank based in Washington, D.C., asserted in a piece on its website that the “For the People Act,” also known as H.R. 1, contains a “religious test for redistricting.”
The For the People Act, billed as a necessary reform to expand voting rights, passed the House on an almost party-line vote on March 3, with one Democrat joining all Republicans in voting against the measure.
The Act calls for the establishment of independent redistricting commissions in every state. The commissions would draw voting districts every 10 years to reflect the most recent census population figures. Currently, the method used to draw districts for the House of Representatives varies from state to state, with some states vesting that authority in the legislature and others relying on independent redistricting commissions to draw the districts.
Section 2412 of the For the People Act establishes guidelines for who is eligible to serve on the nonpartisan redistricting commissions the legislation calls for. Candidates for the commissions must fill out an application listing “the reason or reasons the individual desires to serve on the independent redistricting commission, the individual’s qualifications, and information relevant to the ability of the individual to be fair and impartial.”
Applicants are asked to share personal information, including “any involvement with, or financial support of, professional, social, political, religious, or community organizations or causes.” The portion of the proposed application calling on people to disclose “involvement with” or “financial support of” religious organizations raised concerns for the Family Research Council.
“While it may appear minor, this is incredibly problematic because it suggests that religious affiliations may affect an individual’s ability to be impartial, and thereby may make them ineligible to serve on the commission,” wrote Travis Weber, the vice president for policy and government affairs at Family Research Council and the author of the blog post. “Article 6, Clause 3, of the U.S. Constitution states that ‘no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.’”
“As cancel culture rages, it is easy to see how this provision will be utilized to target conservative Christians, whose biblical values are increasingly at odds with the culture’s embrace of certain favored ideologies,” he warned.