Senators keep gunning for nominees’ religious beliefs.
We have posted before about Senate Democrats on the Judiciary Committee exhibiting hostile attitudes toward nominees’ religious faith. One of the most aggressive, Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse apparently wants to become the committee’s chief spear carrier in that regard.
In his questioning of Leonard Steven Graszn, nominated to the US Court of Appeals, Whitehouse spent the end of his time exploring the appropriate role of religion in judicial rulings and in the committee’s consideration of judicial nominations. Grasz and Whitehouse appeared to agree that religion per se should play no role in either. Rulings should be based on the law, and approval of a nominee should be based on his or her qualifications.
Whitehouse concluded with a seemingly reasonable sum up question: Is it appropriate for the committee to try to assure itself the nominee will adhere to that standard, and keep personal religious beliefs out of his rulings? Yes, Grasz agreed.Watch the exchange starting at 5:25 in the YouTube link below.
The problem with this seemingly arm’s length accord is that it opens the door for all manner of personal probing about what those beliefs are and how they might influence a nominee. This would be an unusual and insidious direction for examinations to go. There have always been nominees of various faiths. Many have come from churches with traditional views on the sanctity of life, family and marriage structure, freedom of religious practice against government regulation. The fact of the diversity of religious views has not previously been an invitation to senators to cross examine nominees about the details of their doctrines. Doing that smacks of an agenda to intrude, to expose, to isolate, and to ridicule. This is particularly troubling where Sen. Whitehouse appears to have precisely that agenda.
Indeed, in the hearing, he argued that “there’s simply no way to prevent a judge’s . . . personal beliefs from influencing” the judge’s rulings It appears Whitehouse is setting up a one-two. Ask questions eliciting any belief in a doctrine that does not comply with current legal trends, then argue the nominee will be unable to follow the law. Rather he’ll be improperly influenced by his church’s teachings.
Reinforcing this concern, the ABA investigator who gathered information for the ABA’s report to the Senate questioned Grasz about why he sent his children to a private religious school. That is not relevant fact gathering. An ill wind blows.