Sasse Slams 'Plain, Unadulterated Anti-Catholic Bigotry' in Senate

Democratic senators criticized nominee's membership in Knights of Columbus

July 24, 2019

Sen. Ben Sasse (R., Neb.) slammed the "plain, unadulterated anti-Catholic bigotry" on display in the confirmation process of Brian Buescher, who was nominated to serve on the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska, prior to the Senate voting to confirm Buescher.

In December, Sens. Kamala Harris (D., Calif.) and Mazie Hirono (D., Hawaii) questioned a judicial nominee about his membership in the Knights of Columbus and whether it would affect his ability to fairly judge cases.

Hirono sent written questions claiming "the Knights of Columbus has taken a number of extreme positions. For example, it was reportedly one of the top contributors to California's Proposition 8 campaign to ban same-sex marriage." She also asked if Buescher would quit the group if confirmed "to avoid any appearance of bias."

Harris described the Knights as "an all-male society" in her questions, and also asked if Buescher knew the Knights "opposed a woman's right to choose" and were against "marriage equality" when he became a member.

The Senate confirmed Buescher by a vote of 51-40 on Wednesday. Sasse criticized the treatment Buescher received before the vote.

"Let's put it bluntly: This was plain, unadulterated anti-Catholic bigotry and this isn't a new thing in U.S. history and it's just a new old thing – 60 years ago in this body John F. Kennedy was asked as he was running for president some really similar questions," Sasse said. "It's also plainly unconstitutional. Every member of this body, all 100 of us, has raised our hands and took an oath to defend the Constitution, which in Article 6 states — in language so clear that even a politician has to acknowledge that it says what it says — that 'no religious test shall ever be required as qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.'"

Sasse pointed out that the Knights of Columbus is far from an extremist organization.

"The Knights of Columbus, to be clear, is not some shadowy organization from a Dan Brown novel. The Knights: it's a bunch of guys who organize fish fries, sometimes they sell tootsie rolls, but basically what they're doing is they're helping fund organizations like the Special Olympics. That's what they do in Omaha and Lincoln and across Nebraska and across the country. It is really weird that we are talking about the Knights of Columbus as an extremist organization," Sasse continued.

Sasse labeled Democrats' treatment of Buescher a "weird rebirth of McCarthyism" in which "it seems that Catholics are to replace the Communists." He also alluded to Sen. Dianne Feinstein's (D., Calif.) questioning of Judge Amy Coney Barrett, when the senator told the nominee that "the dogma lives loudly within you."

In January, the Senate rebuked Hirono and Harris for their criticism of Buescher's membership in the Knights of Columbus.