85%: A Person's Religious Belief Should Not Be Factor in Federal Appointment

By Dimitri Simes | January 30, 2019 | 11:03am EST

(CNSNews.com) – Following on the heels of a congressional controversy in which a judicial nominee was quizzed about his Catholicism, a new poll shows that an overwhelming majority of Americans (85%) believe a person’s religious faith “should not” be a factor in “deciding their appointment to a position in the federal government.”

The poll also showed that 62% of Americans “strongly support/support” appointing someone to a federal judgeship even if they have strong religious beliefs.

In the Marist survey, sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization, respondents were asked, “Do you think a person’s religious faith should or should not be a factor in deciding their appointment to a position in the federal government?”

(Marist Poll.) 

Among those surveyed, 85% said religious faith should not be a factor; 11% said it should be a factor; and 4% said they were unsure.

The results of the survey did not indicate much variation between people across party lines. Overwhelming majorities of Republicans (74%), Democrats (90%), and Independents (89%) disapproved of taking federal appointees’ faith into consideration.

Likewise, the poll showed that a 63% of Americans supported or strongly supported the appointments of individuals whose “religious beliefs are very important to them” to federal government positions, with only 19% opposing or strongly opposing. For appointments to federal judgeships, the ratio was 62% to 23%.

This poll comes shortly after Brian Craig Buescher, President Donald Trump’s appointee to the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska, received scrutiny from Democratic senators over his membership with the Knights of Columbus.

In the written questions sent to Buescher on Dec. 5, Senators Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) pressed him on his attitude towards the organization’s stance on gay marriage, abortion, and contraceptives.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.)  (Getty Images)

Hirono accused the Knights of Columbus of taking “a number of extreme positions,” such as its support for Proposition 8, a 2008 ballot proposition in California which defined marriage as being only between a man and a woman.“If confirmed, do you intend to end your membership with this organization to avoid any appearance of bias,” the senator from Hawaii asked Buescher.

Harris, who described the Knights of Columbus as “an all-male society comprised primarily of Catholic men,” inquired whether Buecher agreed with comments about abortion made by Carl Anderson, the group’s leader. In 2016, Anderson denounced abortion as “the killing of innocents on a massive scale” and held it responsible for “more than 40 million deaths.”

Buescher defended his membership in the Knights, asserting that his role in the group was not political. “I have not drafted any policies or positions for the national organization,” Buescher stated in response to Senator Hirono’s question.

Later, he told Senator Harris that his “membership has involved participation in charitable and community events in local Catholic parishes.”

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii)  (Getty Images)

The two senators’ line of questioning prompted pushback from their colleagues, who charged that it was an unconstitutional attack on an appointee’s faith.

On Jan.16, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution introduced and drafted by Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) declaring “that disqualifying a nominee to Federal office on the basis of membership in the Knights of Columbus violates the Constitution of the United States.” The resolution pointed to the third clause of Article VI of the Constitution, which states, “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

The Marist Poll interviewed 1,066 adults between Jan.8-Jan.10 for its survey.

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