Democratic lawmakers once again have subjected a presidential nominee to questions about personal religious beliefs, this time drawing a reprimand from Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah.
Lee was responding to Democratic Sen. Cory Booker’s questioning D.C. Circuit Court nominee Naomi Rao on whether she views gay relationships to be “immoral” during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.
“You can’t openly, publicly question a nominee about that nominee’s religious beliefs, about what he or she believes to be sinful conduct without subjecting that nominee to ridicule and simultaneously demeaning some of the fundamental tenets of our constitutional republic,” Lee said.
He said such a line of questioning is “wildly inappropriate.”
“I urge you to consider the fact that we should never expose someone to shame, ridicule or scorn on the basis of their religious beliefs, and I ask that we refrain from doing so in this committee,” Lee said.
“We should never again ask someone what they regard as a sin or other particulars of their religious beliefs. It’s nobody’s darn business. It’s certainly not the business of this committee.”
Lee said such questions “inevitably expose those beliefs as somehow a qualifier or a disqualifier for public office,” which is unconstitutional.
Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii responded to Lee, insisting the committee is not in “the business of censuring each other’s questions to nominees or falsely assigning motives that don’t exist.”
“There is no religious test for nominees on this committee and to suggest otherwise is, to quote my friend from Utah, ‘wildly inappropriate,'” she said.
Hirono said probing the religious beliefs of nominees is a “legitimate are of inquiry” to determine if it will “not enable them to be objective.”
In 2017, Sen. Dianne Feinstein drew widespread criticism for probing the Catholic beliefs of appeals court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, who is high on President Trump’s list of possible U.S. Supreme Court nominees.
Feinstein told the judge her “dogma lives loudly within you.”
“I think whatever a religion is, it has its own dogma,” Feinstein said. “And I think in your case, professor, when you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern when you come to the big issues that large numbers of people have fought for years in this country.”
See Feinstein confront Amy Coney Barrett:
Barrett, who clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, co-wrote a paper stating that when a judge’s morals conflict with the law, the judge should withdraw from the case.
But Feinstein drew the opposite conclusion from the paper, maintaining the law review article concluded “it may well be that a Catholic judge cannot be independent.”
“You have a long history of believing that your religious beliefs should prevail,” the senator claimed of the then-Notre Dame law professor.