SC Republican Just Wants Judges To Pass Religious Test, What's Wrong With That?

South Carolina state Rep. Jonathon Hill is just an inquisitive guy who wants to be well-informed about state judicial candidates. That's the only reason he sent a questionnaire just crawling with completely unconstitutional questions to candidates for judgeships. In South Carolina, judges are elected by state legislators, so Hill, a bright young conservative who is 29 years old, thought he'd look into some important questions to help him decide who belongs on the bench. Here are a few things he wanted to know:

  • Do you believe in the “Supreme Being” (SC Constitution, Article VI, Section 2)? What is the nature of this being? What is your personal relationship to this being? What relevance does this being have on the position of judge? Please be specific.
  • Will you make prayer and religious displays (such as the Ten Commandments) a part of your court? Please explain why or why not.
  • Do you believe unborn children have rights? If so, how would those factor in to your decisions as a judge?
  • Do you agree or disagree with the argument that homosexual marriage is a “right” protected under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which would render S.C.’s 2006 marriage amendment unconstitutional? Please explain why.
  • Would you perform a homosexual marriage, either voluntarily or involuntarily?

Hill was quickly informed by staffers at the state Judicial Merit Selection Commission that several of the questions were "problematic," as in pretty much illegal under the U.S. Constitution's prohibition of religious tests for holding public office. We don't see why that should be a problem for Hill, though, since several of his questions also focused on states' rights:

  • If a state and federal law conflict, under what circumstances would you rule in favor of upholding the state law?
  • Please name an example of a Federal violation of the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and state how you would respond as a state-level judge.
  • Is there ever at time [sic] you would make a decision influenced by foreign legal systems and/or international law? Please explain why.

14th Amendment? We don't need no steenking 14th Amendment! And that last one is usually wingnut code for "I don't trust the U.N." or "Eek! Creeping Sharia!" Or both.

The staffers who let Hill know that his survey was out of line also emailed all the judicial candidates to let them know they shouldn't answer Hill's questions, which they probably were already aware of, seeing as how South Carolina has a Code of Judicial Conduct that they would presumably be familiar with, even though Rep. Milo Minderbinder Hill seems not to have heard of it.

Hill was also careful to hit some other very important rightwing questions:

  • In a case where someone was assaulted because he was gay, would you consider it a ‘hate crime’ and increase the penalty? [The State notes, on this one, that "South Carolina does not have a state hate-crimes law."]
  • Does the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution apply only to the militia and military, or to the people at large? [Yr Wonkette notes that the Supreme Court already decided this one, though we think it was a crappy decision.]
  • Given a case where a local gun restriction ordinance was being challenged, would you uphold the ordinance or strike it down? What factors would play into that decision?
  • Should the Constitution be interpreted according to the original intent, or is it an evolving document with flexibility for the issues of today? Please explain.

Rep. Hill is pretty chipper about his little boo-boo:

“You live and learn,” said Hill, a 29-year-old Anderson businessman and freshman legislator. “Maybe next year I’ll be in a better position to -- if I put out a questionnaire -- to craft it in a way that would work a little bit better.”

Because really, what freshman legislator hasn't done something that's both constitutionally and ethically questionable within a month of being sworn in?

Extra special Southern-Fried Snark points to South Carolina's Democratic House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, who thought Hill's survey was completely out of line:

“Asking advisory opinions on how someone would rule is wrong,” Rutherford said, adding different cases have nuances so a potential judge could not answer Hill’s questions.

But, Rutherford acknowledged, Hill only has been a lawmaker three weeks. “Bless his heart.”

Oh my. Rutherford could only have South-burned Hill more if he'd added that Hill meant well, and that he'll pray for the boy.

[The State via tip from "John O." / Image from Jonathon Hill campaign website]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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