First up from the God Machine this week is the latest from Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain, who continues to struggle with issues related to religious bigotry.

Cain’s first meaningful trouble in this area came a few months ago, when the former pizza company CEO said he wouldn’t allow Muslim Americans to serve in his administration, regardless of qualifications. This week, Cain sat down with Glenn Beck and went a little further, saying he’d consider hiring Muslim Americans — just as soon as he subjected them to loyalty oaths.

CAIN: [I]f they can prove to me that they’re putting the Constitution of the United States first, then they would be a candidate just like everybody else. My entire career I’ve hired good people, great people, regardless of their religious orientation.

BECK: So wait a minute, are you saying that is — that Muslims have to prove — that there has to be some loyalty proof?

CAIN: Yes, to the Constitution of the United States of America.

BECK: Well would you do that to a Catholic? Or would you do that to a Mormon?

CAIN: No, I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t. Because there is a greater dangerous part of the Muslim faith than there is any of these other religions.

Just for kicks, I thought I’d note that Article VI, paragraph 3, of the U.S. Constitution dictates that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

If a president forces Americans of one faith, and no other, to take a loyalty test, there’s a case to be made that Cain would be applying a religious test for public office.

Either way, it reeks of McCarthyism. It may help Cain win some votes in GOP primaries, but it represents a form of religious bigotry that has no place in national American politics.

Also from the God Machine this week:

* Despite laws, including the First Amendment, requiring government neutrality on religion, Louisiana officials are moving forward with a plan to install a Ten Commandments monument outside the state capitol.

* On a related note, two south-central Kentucky counties are spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on legal fees while trying to defend Ten Commandments displays in local courthouses. (thanks to R.P. for the tip)

* Catholic Charities in parts of Illinois have abandoned their publicly-financed adoption and foster care services, rather than comply with a new state law extending equal rights to same-sex couples. Mark Kleiman explains why it’s a good thing to get Catholic Charities off the public dole.

* When prudish impulses go to extreme lengths: “Should religious art require a fig leaf?” (thanks to R.B. for the heads-up)

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.