Senator backlash over Knights of Columbus

Wall Street Journal Editorial,

We’re still a year from the 2020 presidential primaries, but Senator Kamala Harris is already showing America how far the Democratic Party has strayed from its roots.

Democrats rightly take pride in the 1928 nomination of Gov. Al Smith, which signaled the party’s affirmation that Catholics had a place in American public life. Ditto for Jack Kennedy, who told a gathering of skeptical Protestant ministers in 1960 that “if this election is decided on the basis that 40 million Americans lost their chance of being president on the day they were baptized, then it is the whole nation that will be the loser.”

Judging from the questions Sens. Kamala Harris (Calif.) and Mazie Hirono (Hawaii) put to Donald Trump’s nominee for a federal district court in Nebraska, today’s Democrats would call Smith and Kennedy extremists. Nominee Brian Buescher is a member of the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization Sen. Hirono says holds “a number of extreme positions,” particularly on same-sex marriage and abortion.

Sen. Harris also criticized the “all-male society” and anti-abortion statements made by the leader of the Knights, Carl Anderson. Mr. Buescher said in response he would as a judge uphold precedent by both the Supreme Court and the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, including Roe v. Wade. But the grilling makes clear these Democrats regard membership in the Catholic organization as disqualifying.

For the record, the Knights take the same position as the Catholic Church. JFK was himself a Knight. If Mr. Buescher is unfit to serve as a federal judge because of his Knights membership, then so is every other Catholic American who doesn’t publicly repudiate the church’s moral teaching.

The argument against Mr. Buescher fits a distressing pattern. No longer is it necessary to engage the political merits of a position, or—in the case of a judicial nominee—demonstrate he’d use personal views to override the law. Today it is enough to label a nominee’s religion or associations “extreme” and use that to try to banish him from public life. Recall last year when President Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett for the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein told the Notre Dame law professor that “the dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern.”

By the way, the Knights do extraordinary charitable work. The local D.C. chapter puckishly responded by assuring the Senators they are not extremists—and inviting both to join them for the annual Polar Plunge in February, when folks jump in cold water to raise money for the Special Olympics.

Ms. Harris’s embrace of religious intolerance is especially significant because in two years she could be the next U.S. President. What does it say about today’s Democrats that no one in the party of Al Smith and JFK sees fit to rebuke her?

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