In the midst of a global pandemic, Americans would expect the White House to nominate someone with a public-health background or expertise in virology or vaccines to lead the Department of Health and Human Services.
President Biden instead nominated California’s attorney general, Xavier Becerra, whose most notable health-care experience involves unconstitutional lockdowns and a years-long lawsuit against the Little Sisters of the Poor. This order of Catholic nuns — who spend their lives caring for the elderly poor — sought an exemption from Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate in court for years, until the federal government granted an exemption in 2017. Becerra fought this exemption in court for the next three years.
A number of senators asked Becerra about this at his confirmation hearings. “I’ve never sued any affiliation of nuns,” he said, choosing his words carefully. “My actions have always been directed at the federal agencies.”
His misleading answer ignores the basic truth: Becerra took legal action for years intended to strong-arm Catholic nuns and others into complying with a federal contraceptive policy that violates their religious beliefs.
It’s a matter of public record that cannot be erased, and it’s just one example of Becerra taking religious liberty and freedom of conscience to court.
He vigorously defended a California law that targeted pro-life pregnancy centers and forced them to advertise abortions, arguing it all the way to the Supreme Court, which overturned the law because it violated the free-speech protections of the First Amendment.
He lost again at the Supreme Court last month, when the court ruled that California’s ban on indoor worship — which Becerra defended and enforced — was unconstitutional.
Justice Gorsuch wrote, “If Hollywood may host a studio audience or film a singing competition while not a single soul may enter California’s churches, synagogues and mosques, something has gone seriously awry.”
Indeed, something has gone seriously awry in California when its attorney general spends his time attacking, instead of defending, Americans’ freedom of speech and religious liberty.
Xavier Becerra is the wrong pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services in the worst health crisis our country has faced in a century. Senators will have many reasons to oppose his nomination: his lack of relevant experience, his determined assault on religious liberty, his record as chief lockdown enforcer in California, his radical support for unrestricted and taxpayer-funded abortion, and his positions in favor of socialized medicine and decriminalizing illegal immigration.
But at the end of the day, all you need to know about the man is that he sued the federal government to force organizations like the Little Sisters of the Poor to violate their religious beliefs. His disdain for the First Amendment alone should sink his nomination.
John Thune represents South Dakota in the U.S. Senate and is the Senate Republican whip. Tom Cotton represents Arkansas in the U.S. Senate and earned a J.D. from Harvard Law School.