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Asking a nominee about his membership in the Knights of Columbus isn't a religious test

Asking a nominee about his membership in the Knights of Columbus isn't a religious test
Sen. Kamala Harris recently questioned a judicial nominee about his membership in the Knights of Columbus. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

To the editor: Rabbi Mitchell Rocklin calls out Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) for questioning whether a judicial nominee who is a member of the Knights of Columbus can serve on the federal bench. Rocklin calls their concern a constitutionally prohibited religious test, but it is not.

The senators do not claim that nominee Brian Buescher is unfit to serve on the bench because he is Roman Catholic. Their concern is whether his membership in the Knights of Columbus may affect his ability to judge impartially.

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Roman Catholicism is a religion. There is no religion called Knights of Columbus, which is in fact an organization that takes political positions that should be of concern to the Senate.

It is entirely appropriate for senators to query a judicial nominee about his membership in an organization that advocates elimination of both marriage equality and a woman’s right to choose before they reward him with a lifetime appointment to the federal bench.

Mark Shoup, Apple Valley

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To the editor: Thanks to Rocklin for reminding us of America’s unique religious history.

In her questioning, Harris revealed a lack of simple understanding of our Constitution’s secular guarantee by suggesting that because Buescher is a Catholic and member of the Knights of Columbus, he might favor religious ideology over principle. As Rocklin shows, Harris is only the latest in a long line of political figures who have made this serious error.

I cannot recall any recent judicial nominee being questioned during a Senate confirmation hearing about whether his religious faith might deny him the privilege of sitting on the bench. This is another benefit of the unique separation of church and state we enjoy in America.

Let’s keep it that way, Sen. Harris.

June Maguire, Mission Viejo

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To the editor: Rocklin frames the questioning of Buescher about his membership in the Knights of Columbus as religious “intolerance.” If we had the luxury of seeing the case only through the lens of religious liberty, I would agree.

However, I cannot expect Rocklin to feel the cold dread and fury many of us feel at the prospect of losing hard-won autonomy over our own lives and reproductive rights.

Clearly, Hirono and Harris were getting at the issue of whether Buescher would vote in accordance with the public positions of the Knights of Columbus. That is very much a political question, not exclusively a religious one.

By accusing the senators of “scoring political points,” Rocklin dismisses the risks of confirming jurists who hope to reverse constitutional rights to fit their own narrow religious convictions. I do not want Buescher guarding my hen house, thank you.

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Nancy Breuer, West Hills

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