WASHINGTON, D.C., January 17, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – The Senate unanimously passed a symbolic resolution Wednesday disavowing opposition to federal appointees on the basis of membership in the Catholic organization Knights of Columbus, following a series of hostile questions from two Democrat senators.
The controversy began in December, when Sens. Mazie Hirono and Kamala Harris grilled Trump judicial nominee Brian Buescher on his membership in the long-running charitable organization, particularly its “extreme positions” such as opposing abortion and same-sex “marriage,” as well as its status as an all-male society. They questioned whether Buescher could rule “fairly and impartially” despite his association.
The questioning earned the lawmakers widespread denunciation from conservatives, Catholics, and pro-lifers, as well as a letter from the Knights declaring that any fears of the group’s extremism “is not grounded in any truth.”
Earlier this week, Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska introduced a resolution expressing the “sense of the Senate that disqualifying a nominee to Federal office on the basis of membership in the Knights of Columbus violates clause 3 of article VI of the Constitution of the United States, which establishes that Senators ‘shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support th(e) Constitution’ and ‘no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.’”
Technically, Article VI, Clause 3 only bars formal religious tests from being written into law, not individual senators choosing to vote against someone, but as a symbolic affirmation of the spirit of the provision, the Senate passed the resolution by unanimous consent Wednesday, the Daily Caller reported.
“A Marist poll sponsored by the Knights of Columbus released Wednesday found that 85 percent of respondents — including 90 percent of Democrats — said religion should not be a factor when assessing someone’s fitness to serve in the federal government,” the Caller noted.
“If a senator has a problem with this resolution, you're probably in the wrong line of work because this is what America is,” Sasse told his colleagues on the Senate floor, the Washington Free Beacon reported. “This is a super basic point, no religious test. If someone has a problem with this resolution, what other parts of the Constitution are you against: freedom of the press, women's right to vote, freedom of speech? This isn't hard. No religious test for serving on the federal bench. We should, in this body, rebuke these anti-Catholic attacks.”
The Knights of Columbus expressed gratitude for the Senate vote in a statement to Catholic News Agency.
“The Knights of Columbus is grateful that the U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed that membership in a religious organization does not make a person unfit for public office,” spokeswoman Kathleen Blomquist said. “We have also been gratified by the reaction of people of different faiths — including Senator Sasse — who never want to see a litmus test imposed on individuals based of their faith, a position that the vast majority of Americans support.”