Two more top Democrats in the U.S. Senate have now expressed concern with nominees of President Donald Trump based on religion. At a hearing this week in the Senate Judiciary Committee, the panel’s top Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), attacked the suitability of Notre Dame law professor Amy Coney Barrett to be a federal judge based on her Catholic faith. “The dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern,” Feinstein said. Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the number two Democrat leader in the chamber, also probed Barrett’s religious identity in an exchange including the question, “Do you consider yourself an orthodox Catholic?”
Vexed by this discriminatory line of questioning, NRB President & CEO Dr. Jerry A. Johnson said, “It is outrageous that top leaders in the Democratic caucus apparently believe that some Americans are disqualified from public service based on their religious beliefs.”
Johnson added, “I urge Senate Democrat Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to take measures to snuff out such bigotry from his caucus quickly and decisively.”
NRB’s president was not the only one so offended. Conservative and liberal voices spoke out in alarm. Kirsten Powers, a USA Today columnist and CNN political analyst, tweeted, “This is just religious bigotry, pure and simple.” Former Chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Robert George called on Feinstein to resign over her “disgusting” comments and said, “Catholics should not tolerate liberal bigotry a moment longer.” Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) called on Feinstein to apologize.
Notably, Catholic University President John Garvey, whose 1998 article with Barrett helped stir the unfair questions, also rose to his colleague’s defense. He wrote in the Washington Examiner, “The case against Prof. Barrett is so flimsy, so transparently at odds with her opponents' own principles, that you have to wonder whether there isn't some other, unspoken, cause for their objection. Senators Durbin, Hirono, and Feinstein seemed particularly troubled by Barrett's Catholicism.”
Earlier this summer in the Senate Budget Committee, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who was in serious contention to be the 2016 Democrat candidate for U.S. President, suggested Russell Vought, an evangelical Christian and a Trump nominee, should be disqualified from a federal leadership post based on his belief that Christ is the only way of salvation. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), previously a top House leader and now chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, followed that same line of criticism during the hearing. He said, “I’m a Christian, but part of being a Christian, in my view, is recognizing that there are lots of ways that people can pursue their God.” While Van Hollen said he wasn’t questioning Vought’s faith, he stated that the nominee’s writings “suggest a violation of the public trust in what will be a very important position.”
Thus far there has been no formal apology or condemnation in Congress for any of these discriminatory remarks.
By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations
Published: September 8, 2017