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Democratic senators question whether members of Catholic service organization can be fair judges
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) (Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

Democratic senators question whether members of Catholic service organization can be fair judges

Democratic Sens. Mazie Hirono (Hawaii) and Kamala Harris (Calif.) questioned the fitness of a federal judicial nominee because of his membership in the Catholic service organization Knights of Columbus.

What's the story?

In October, President Donald Trump nominated Omaha-based lawyer Brian C. Beuscher for a seat on the bench for the district of Nebraska federal district court. Beuscher ran for attorney general of Nebraska in 2014, but lost in the primary to the eventual winner, Doug Peterson.

The Senate Judiciary Committee held hearings on his nomination on Nov. 28, and subsequently Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee submitted a number of questions to Beuscher. A number of questions were typical Democrat fare; for example, several Democrats asked Beuscher to swear fealty to Roe v. Wade and other favored liberal Supreme Court decisions.

But some of the questions asked about Beuscher's membership in the Knights of Columbus, which is the world's largest fraternal Catholic service organization, raised eyebrows with Catholic observers.

For example, Sen. Hirono asked, "You reported that you have been a member of the Knights of Columbus since 1993. 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. If confirmed, do you intend to end your membership with this organization to avoid any appearance of bias?"

Beuscher responded to this question, "The Knights of Columbus is a Roman Catholic service organization with approximately 2 million members world-wide. I have not drafted any policies or positions for the national organization. If confirmed, I will abide by the Code of Conduct of United States Judges and will not affiliate with any organization in violation of the Code."

Hirono also went one step farther, asking Beuscher if he planned to recuse himself from "all cases in which the Knights of Columbus has taken a position."

Sen. Harris also submitted numerous questions to Beuscher about his membership in the Knights of Columbus, which she criticized as having been involved in the campaign to support Proposition 8 in California.

Kathleen Bloomquist, the spokesperson for the Knights of Columbus, told the Catholic News Agency that the Democrats' question were indicative of anti-Catholic bias, stating, "Our country's sad history of anti-Catholic bigotry contributed to the founding of the Knights of Columbus, and we are proud of the many Catholics who overcame this hurdle to contribute so greatly to our country.

"We were extremely disappointed to see that one's commitment to Catholic principles through membership in the Knights of Columbus — a charitable organization that adheres to and promotes Catholic teachings — would be viewed as a disqualifier from public service in this day and age."

Beuscher's confirmation is one of the many that has been held up due to Republican Sen. Jeff Flake's decision to vote against all of Trump's judicial nominees until legislation is in place to protect special counsel Robert Mueller. It is widely expected that the Senate will attempt to move forward with confirmation of these judges after the new Senate — which will have two additional Republican members — is sworn in on Jan. 3, 2019.

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