The Corner

Law & the Courts

Democratic Senators vs. the Knights of Columbus

Two Democratic senators — Mazie Hirono of Hawaii and Kamala Harris of California — are making an issue of a district-court nominee’s membership in the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic social and charitable organization founded in 1882. The organization has heretofore been roughly as controversial as the Rotary Club.

Hirono claims, however, that the Knights have taken “a number of extreme positions,” citing specifically its support for Proposition 8, a California ballot initiative that defined marriage in state law as the union of a man and a woman. Support for the traditional definition of marriage is not an extreme position; it is held by roughly a third of all Americans. It was certainly not an “extreme position” at the time of Proposition 8: The initiative won 52 percent of the vote in one of the most liberal states in the country, the same day that state voted overwhelmingly to make Barack Obama president. Hirono is pushing for the nominee, Brian Buescher, to drop his membership in the organization and recuse himself from cases in which it has taken a position.

Buescher joined the Knights in 1993, at age 18. Senator Harris has asked Buescher whether he was aware when he joined the Knights that they “opposed a woman’s right to choose” and “marriage equality” (which was not even a term in general circulation, let alone a going debate, at the time).

Among the many stupidities of this campaign against the Knights is its superfluity. Buescher is voluntarily affiliated with two even larger organizations that are on record in opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage: the Catholic church; the Republican party. When running for attorney general of Nebraska in 2014, he called himself “an avidly pro-life person.” If Harris and Hirono want to maintain that all judicial nominees must support abortion, beyond just saying that they will respect existing law, then they should just say that there are scores of millions of Christians they would never allow on the federal bench on account of their beliefs. There is no need to launch an attack on the Knights.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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