Are the openly religious barred from the bench?
At least Bill Pryor has experience with religious questions during confirmations. Of course, the Roman Catholic rite of confirmation is pretty different from the U.S. Congress's judicial confirmation hearings.
Last week, a group called the Committee for Justice published ads in Maine and Rhode Island newspapers saying, "some in the U.S. Senate are attacking Bill Pryor for having 'deeply held' Catholic beliefs to prevent him from becoming a federal judge." The ads showed a courthouse door with a sign reading "Catholics Need Not Apply."
The tone of those ads carried into the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday as Republicans and Democrats faced off over whether Democrats were applying "religious tests" for a public office—something expressly prohibited by the U.S. Constitution.
"The left is trying to enforce an antireligious litmus test," Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said during yesterday's panel meeting. "It appears that nominees who openly adhere to Catholic and Baptist doctrines, as a matter of personal faith, are unqualified for the federal bench in the eyes of the liberal Washington interest groups. Period. … The litmus test, whether you call it an abortion litmus test or a religious litmus test, is being applied with full force against Pryor because of his faith and the personal views consistent with it."
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Pryor's main sponsor, said the nominee's views on abortion are fully consistent—in fact, mandated—by the Roman Catholic Church, and that barring judges with those views essentially bars orthodox Catholics. "Let me tell you, the doctrine that abortion is not justified for rape and incest is Catholic doctrine," Sessions said. "It's the position of ...1
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