Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii has criticized her fellow Democrats for targeting a judicial nominee over his membership in the Knights of Columbus, calling it “religious bigotry.”
“While I oppose the nomination of Brian Buescher to the U.S. District Court in Nebraska, I stand strongly against those who are fomenting religious bigotry, citing as disqualifiers Buescher’s Catholicism and his affiliation with the Knights of Columbus,” Ms. Gabbard wrote in a Tuesday op-ed in The Hill.
While Ms. Gabbard mentioned no names, two Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee — Kamala Harris of California and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii — raised the issue of Mr. Buescher’s Knights membership last month in written questions.
“If Buescher is ‘unqualified’ because of his Catholicism and affiliation with the Knights of Columbus, then President John F. Kennedy, and the ‘liberal lion of the Senate’ Ted Kennedy would have been ‘unqualified’ for the same reasons,” Ms. Gabbard said.
Her open criticism stunned Democrats, including Ms. Hirono, whose office issued a statement Wednesday calling the congresswoman’s comments “misguided.”
“Over the past two years, the senator has been attacked by right wing ideologues for her examination of Donald Trump’s ideologically-driven nominees to the courts,” Hirono spokesman Will Dempster said in a statement. “It is unfortunate that Congresswoman Gabbard based her misguided opinion on the far-right wing manipulation of these straightforward questions.”
Ms. Gabbard, who has been mentioned as a possible 2020 Democratic presidential contender, also took aim at Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, over her questions regarding U.S. District Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s Catholic faith.
“No American should be told that his or her public service is unwelcome because ‘the dogma lives loudly within you’ as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said to Amy Coney Barrett during her confirmation hearings in 2017 to serve as U.S. Circuit Court judge in the 7th Circuit,” Ms. Gabbard said.
Ms. Gabbard’s father, Hawaii state Sen. Mike Gabbard, belongs to the Knights of Columbus, according to Hawaii News Now.
Sen. Ben Sasse, Nebraska Republican, applauded Ms. Gabbard for her forthright commentary, saying she was “right to call out religious bigotry. We don’t have to agree on everything in a First Amendment society — that’s the point.”
The Knights of Columbus, a Catholic men’s charitable organization with nearly 2 million members, was formed in 1882 in part to fight religious bigotry perpetrated by groups such as the Ku Klux Klan.
In her questions, Ms. Hirono asked Mr. Buescher if he planned to quit the Knights if he were confirmed, citing the group’s opposition to same-sex marriage.
“The Knights of Columbus has taken a number of extreme positions,” Ms. Hirono said. “If confirmed, do you intend to end your membership with this organization to avoid any appearance of bias?”
Ms. Gabbard said, “No American should be asked to renounce his or her faith or membership in a faith-based, service organization in order to hold public office.”
“We must call this out for what it is — religious bigotry,” she said. “This is true not just when such prejudice is anti-Catholic, but also when it is anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, anti-Hindu, or anti-Protestant, or any other religion.”