Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) confronted Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Thursday about her Party’s use of religious tests for judicial nominees.
“The problem with asking a nominee about the particulars of his or her religious beliefs is that those questions inevitably expose those beliefs as somehow a qualifier or a disqualifier for public office,” Lee, a Mormon, argued Thursday. “That is flatly inconsistent with at least the letter, at least the spirit, if not also the letter, of at least two provisions of the Constitution. I cannot fathom why this would ever make sense to do.”
“So I would ask Sen. Hirono in what circumstance, in what way, shape, or form is asking Neomi Rao whether she believes particular conduct to be sinful an appropriate question to be asked in this committee–ever,” Lee continued.
“These probing questions – I – if you were to list all of the questions that we asked, they have to do with whether or not these nominees’ very strongly held religious views, as well as any other views, that may not enable them to be objective as judges in lifetime positions,” Hirono argued. “I think that’s a legitimate area of inquiry, and it is not that we all ask, ‘Do you think such and such is a sin, etc., etc.?’”
“That was asked this week!” Lee responded vehemently. “This week, it was asked! I’m not making this up!”
Lee referred to Tuesday’s session of the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing for Rao, President Donald Trump’s nominee for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. During his questioning of Rao, Democrat Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey asked the nominee if she believes gay relationships are a “sin.”
In response, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican, said he has observed “a growing pattern among Senate Democrats of hostility to religious faith.”
Article VI of the Constitution says there should be no religious test for any public office. We have also seen Senate Democrats attack what they characterized as religious dogma. We have seen Senate Democrats attack nominees for their own personal views on salvation. I don’t believe this is a theological court of inquisition. I think the proper avenue for investigation of this committee is a nominee’s record.
The Judicial Crisis Network (JCN) applauded Lee for confronting Hirono on the use of religious tests for Trump’s judicial nominees.
“Thank you, Sen. Mike Lee, for putting Senate Democrats, who have demonstrated hate towards religion and people of faith, on notice for bullying President Trump’s judicial nominees,” said Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy adviser with JCN. “These smear tactics have no place in a judicial confirmation or anywhere else.”
JCN launched a $1.5 million ad buy in January, calling on Senate Democrats to end harassment of Trump’s judicial nominees for their religious beliefs.
Hirono also joined California Democrat Sen. Kamala Harris in suggesting U.S. District Court nominee Brian C. Buescher would not hear cases “fairly and impartially” due to his membership in the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic charitable organization.