We are witnessing an Olympic sprint to religious bigotry in the United States Senate.
In only 17 months, 4 sitting United States Senators have applied a religious test to nominees they interview. They need to heed the Constitution: “No religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
Writing against these senators, Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii said, “We must stand together, and with one voice condemn those who seek to incite bigotry based on religion. We cannot allow those who are anxious to exploit our differences to drive a wedge between us. We cannot and will not tolerate prejudicial treatment of those with whom we disagree.”
Bigot #1: Bernie Sanders attacks Russell Vought
In June 2017, The Atlantic reported in “Bernie Sanders’s Religious Test for Christians in Public Office,” “‘During a contentious confirmation hearing, the Vermont senator questioned the faith of the nominee for deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget.’ Sanders declared, ‘I would simply say, Mr. Chairman, that this nominee is really not someone who is what this country is supposed to be about. I will vote no.’”
Bigot #2: Diane Feinstein attacks Amy Coney Barrett
On Sept. 6, 2017, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California said a judicial nominee’s adherence to “dogma” was “of concern” to her. The senator’s exact words: “When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern.” (Washington Post video, 0:34-0:50)
Bigots #3 and #4: Kamala Harris and Mazie Hirono attack Brian Buescher
Sen. Harris California was more veiled, more artful, last month. “Harris’ [written] questions began by noting that Brian Buescher has been a member of ‘an all-male society comprised primarily of Catholic men’ since 1993. She then asked a number of leading questions” about abortion and marriage.
Sen. Hirono of Hawaii participated in the same inquiry as Sen. Harris, but spoke more openly: “‘If confirmed, do you intend to end your membership with this organization to avoid any appearance of bias?’ asked Hirono…. She also asked him if he would recuse himself ‘from all cases in which the Knights of Columbus has taken a position.’” The Knights’ positions, however, merely reflect the teachings of their church.
Rep. Gabbard rebuked Senators Harris and Hirono, “While I oppose the nomination of Brian Buescher to the U.S. District Court in Nebraska, I stand strongly against those who are fomenting religious bigotry, citing as disqualifiers Buescher’s Catholicism and his affiliation with the Knights of Columbus. If Buescher is ‘unqualified’ because of his Catholicism and affiliation with the Knights of Columbus, then President John F. Kennedy, and the ‘liberal lion of the Senate’ Ted Kennedy would have been ‘unqualified’ for the same reasons.”
We hope the Senators will heed Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard, “The party that worked so hard to convince people that Catholics and Knights of Columbus like Al Smith and John F. Kennedy could be both good Catholics and good public servants shows an alarming disregard of its own history in making such attacks today. We must call this out for what it is – religious bigotry.”