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“Do you believe we have a president in this administration who is working to subvert the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty?” he asked the witnesses.

But Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, Virginia Democrat, chided Mr. Issa for referencing public figures regarded as Democratic heroes and called the hearing “a sham.”

“This is a panel designed … to embarrass the president of the United States and his administration, by overstating an issue which is sacred to all Americans: religious freedom,” Mr. Connolly said. “But of course, in order to do it, we have to, in an almost Stalinist-like fashion, have signs of Democratic icons to rub Democratic faces in.”