Democrat Denounces Sen. Hirono’s ‘Religious Bigotry’ Against Catholic Judicial Nominee

Craig Bannister | January 9, 2019 | 2:22pm EST
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Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii)

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) denounced fellow Hawaii Democrat Sen. Mazie Hirono’s “religious bigotry” against a U.S. District Court nominee’s membership in a Catholic charitable organization.

Last month, Sen. Hirono repeatedly grilled judicial nominee Brian Buescher regarding his membership in the Knights of Columbus – even suggesting Buescher should quit the charitable organization, if confirmed, Fox News reported at the time:

Sens. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, raised concerns about Omaha-based lawyer Brian Buescher's membership as part of the Senate Judiciary Committee's review of his nomination by President Trump to sit on the U.S. District Court in Nebraska, as first reported by the Catholic News Agency.

In a series of questions sent to Buescher, Hirono asked whether his membership in the Knights of Columbus would prevent him from hearing cases “fairly and impartially” and, if confirmed, whether he would end his membership in the Roman Catholic charitable organization.

In her written questions to Buescher, Sen. Hirono asked if, given the “extreme positions” taken by the Knights of Columbus on issues such as abortion and gay marriage, Buescher would quit the organization and recuse himself from all cases in which the group has expressed an opinion:

“If confirmed, will you recuse yourself from “all cases” in which the Knights of Columbus has taken a position?”

“If confirmed, will you recuse yourself from all cases in which the Knights of Columbus has taken a position?”

In an opinion piece published by The Hill on Tuesday, Hirono’s colleague, Rep. Gabbard condemned Hirono’s suggestion that Catholicism and membership in Catholic organizations should disqualify any judicial nominee:

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.

Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution clearly states that there "shall be no religious test" for any seeking to serve in public office.

While I absolutely believe in the separation of church and state as a necessity to the health of our nation, no American should be asked to renounce his or her faith or membership in a faith-based, service organization in order to hold public office.

On Wednesday, Sen. Hirono fired back at Gabbard, accusing her of being “misguided” and manipulated by “right wing ideologues.” In a statement by Hirono’s spokesperson published by Hawaii News Now, Hirono also asserted her right to scrutinize the religion of any judicial nominee:

“Senator Hirono, asks all judicial nominees – particularly those who have expressed very strong personal ideological views in conflict with Supreme Court precedent – if they can be fair. She asked Mr. Buescher, who has a clear record of anti-choice activism, whether he could separate his personal beliefs from decisions he would make if confirmed for a lifetime appointment on the federal bench. Over the past two years, the Senator has been attacked by right wing ideologues for her examination of Donald Trump’s ideologically-driven nominees to the courts. It is unfortunate that Congresswoman Gabbard based her misguided opinion on the far-right wing manipulation of these straightforward questions.”

Will Dempster, spokesperson for Senator Mazie Hirono

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