Clarence Thomas slams use of religious tests in confirming judicial nominees

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas rarely speaks in public about much of anything outside of the law, so when he raises his voice in regard to current events, people tend to take notice.

Thomas garnered some attention recently when he expressed his concerns and disappointment about increasing displays of anti-Catholic bias among elected Democrats, specifically California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who grilled a judicial nominee over her devout Catholic faith.

Thomas assails religious tests

The Washington Examiner reported that Thomas’ remarks came during this year’s annual banquet at the Pepperdine University School of Law.

In addressing the faith-based scrutiny Feinstein and others applied to judicial nominees chosen by President Trump who were also practicing Roman Catholics, Thomas said, “I thought we got away from religious tests.”

Thomas was speaking in direct reference to Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, which explicitly states, “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

His remarks were also a clear reaction to a line of questioning Sen. Feinstein posed in 2017 to conservative judge Amy Coney Barrett during a confirmation hearing on her appointment to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Feinstein said to Barrett, “When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you.” Feinstein proceeded to imply that Barrett’s Catholic faith would prevent her from being impartial in certain types of cases likely to come before the court.

Feinstein not alone

Sen. Feinstein was far from the only one singling out Catholic judicial nominees for faith-based scrutiny during a confirmation hearing, as two of her colleagues — California Sen. Kamala Harris and Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono — did virtually the same thing to a different nominee.

The target of Harris and Hirono’s anti-Catholic bias was attorney Brian Buescher, who was nominated in 2018 to be a federal district judge in Nebraska. Both senators focused in on Buescher’s membership in the Catholic Knights of Columbus organization, which they labeled as “extreme” and out of the mainstream, which is simply untrue.

Firm in his convictions

Thomas’ comments at Pepperdine’s banquet were unwavering in their certainty, with the Roman Catholic jurist declaring, “I don’t think I know a single judge who has allowed religion to interfere with their jobs.”

“I think if you start the day on your knees, you approach your job differently from when you start thinking that someone anointed you to impose your will on others,” he added.

The founders of this nation purposely added to the Constitution an explicit prohibition on the use of faith-based “religious tests” for public office, but like so many other things in that important nation-framing document, Democrats pick and choose which ones will and won’t apply to them, depending on the political expediency of the moment.

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