Sen. Thune: Dems Using ‘Religious Test’ to Stop People of Faith from Serving in Office

By Cody Leach | July 31, 2019 | 4:18pm EDT
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.)
(Getty Images) 

( -- In remarks given to the Senate on Thursday about the confirmation of candidates for federal judgeships, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said some Democrats are using a "religious test" to try to prevent people, especially faithful Catholics, from serving in public office.

“Mr. President, as I said earlier, we confirmed two excellent judicial nominees this week, unfortunately, one ran into some Democrat opposition during the confirmation process because he was Catholic,” said Thune on Thursday. “That’s right. Apparently the fact that he takes his faith seriously enough.”

The judge Senator Thune was referring to is Brian C. Buescher, a Catholic. Buescher was recently confirmed by the Senate, on a party-line vote, to be a District Judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska.

Before the vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on the Senate floor, “I can’t believe I need to repeat it here in the U.S. Capitol, but there is nothing about living out one’s faith that is disqualifying for public service. To the contrary, what the Constitution does forbid is imposing any kind of religious test for public office.”

During his confirmation hearing back in November 28, 2018, Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) asked Buescher if he would be willing to end his membership in the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal group, “to avoid any appearance of bias,” and if he would “recuse” himself “from all cases in which the Knights of Columbus has taken a position.”

At the same hearing, presidential candidate and California Senator Kamala Harris (D) said the Knights opposed a woman’s “right to choose” and asked Buescher if he was aware of that stance when he had joined. She went on to call the Knights “an all-male society comprised primarily of Catholic men.”

“Apparently, the fact that he takes his faith seriously enough to participate in a Catholic charitable group, the Knights of Columbus, is enough to make him suspect as a judge,” said Senator Thune during his remarks.

Knights of Columbus.  (Getty Images)

“Mr. President, I had hoped we were done with Democrats’ flirtation with religious tests for public office when they questioned the fitness of Judge Amy Coney Barrett because she takes her Catholic faith seriously,” said Thune. “But apparently, Democrats think it’s perfectly legitimate to suggest that you can’t be both a person of faith and a nominee for the United States Judiciary.”

It was in 2017 when California Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), questioned judicial nominee Amy Coney Barret’s qualification to the court based on, “the dogma living loudly within her.”

“Let me just remind my colleagues of what Article VI of the Constitution has to say about that,” said Thune. “This is from Article VI and I quote, ‘No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States,’ end quote. No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

“It’s deeply troubling that we have Democrats in the United States Senate suggesting that religious faith disqualifies you from public office,” said Thune. “And if Democrats are using their objections to these candidates’ religious faith as cover for the fact that Democrats don’t want to confirm anyone who doesn’t share their most extreme political opinions, that’s deeply troubling too.”

(Getty Images)

“Mr. President, religious freedom is a bedrock principle of this nation,” said Senator Thune. “Our founders considered it so important that it is the very first freedom mentioned in the Bill of Rights. And by freedom of religion they didn’t mean it’s okay to pray, to have religious beliefs, or if you do it quietly inside your home. They meant freedom to practice your faith in the public square.”

“Even if that means having different political opinions from Democrats,” said Thune. “I hope Judge Buescher is the last nominee who will have his fitness for public office questioned simply because he chooses to live out his faith.”

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