Religious Tests: The Fine Line of Feinstein

Religious Tests: The Fine Line of Feinstein

September 13, 2017

If liberals were seriously concerned about bigotry, they'd be fighting the rash of it right under their nose! While groups like Southern Poverty Law Center continue their phony crusade against Christians, their own party leaders are acting with the same prejudice they claim to be fighting. Senator Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) being one of the most recent examples, taking Americans back to JFK-era skepticism when people claimed it was impossible to serve both God and country.

In a worrisome trend that started with Senator Bernie Sanders's (I-Vt.) red-faced rant against budget pick Russell Vought, liberals seem increasingly comfortable disqualifying nominees based solely on their religion. In a Senate Judiciary hearing last week, Feinstein dropped the mask on the Left's fierce intolerance toward faith by loudly criticizing Amy Barrett's beliefs. "When you read your speeches," the California senator accused, "the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And that's of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for -- for years in this country."

It was a startling moment for Barrett -- and much of the country, who wrongly assumed that liberals practiced the same broad-mindedness they preach. In at least a few pockets of progressivism, some still do -- lashing out at Feinstein for comments that, one socially liberal priest denounced as a "throwback to an era when Catholics were seen as unthinking tools of the Pope." Leaders from Princeton University, Notre Dame, and churches across the country blasted Feinstein's comments – including the executive director of an "Obama-supporting interest group," Christopher Hale. "Dianne Feinstein [is the] latest adolescent, uneducated anti-Catholic trope, embarrassing for a nation that's 1/4 Catholic," he said in a scathing post. Even the New York Times, which isn't where readers usually look for a defense of religious liberty, unleashed on the senator in Sohrab Ahmari's piece, "The Dogma of Dianne Feinstein."

"As a classical liberal and a recent convert to Catholicism, I find all of this deeply dismaying. Long before I started on my journey to Rome, I believed in the promise of the free society -- a system in which liberty and tradition could contend without either one trying to destroy the other. One could be fully a believer and fully invested in a liberal constitutional order. But for some progressives, it isn't enough to have won most of the cultural and policy battles of the past several decades. Even the remnants of the other side, in people's minds and consciences, must submit to maximalist progressive claims.

It won't happen, and the desire to do so isn't actually liberal. It is, well, dogmatic. Not all dogmas involve Almighty God."

Republicans weren't far behind. Mormon Senators Orrin Hatch (Utah), Mike Lee (Utah), and Jeff Flake (Ariz.) were among the scores of conservatives pushing back on Feinstein's unconstitutional religious test. "Qualifications for judicial service include legal experience and judicial philosophy, but not a nominee's personal religious beliefs," said Hatch. "Democrats often argue that judges can base decisions on their personal views, at least when those views produce liberal political results. I have yet to find an example of similar concern over the religious beliefs of liberal nominees or nominees from other faith backgrounds."

Feeling the heat, Feinstein tried to "clarify" her statement, insisting with a straight face that she has "never and will never apply a religious litmus test to nominees. Nominees of all religious faiths are capable of setting aside their religious beliefs while on the bench and applying the Constitution, laws, and Supreme Court precedent." Then, letting the veneer slip, she went on to say that she must scrutinize whether nominees can be impartial (something she has not yet mastered).

Clearly, she -- and every senator -- must now be asked whether they intend to apply the Feinstein-Sanders test. Until then, Senate candidate Luke Messer is calling on Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly (D) to "repudiate" Feinstein's remarks (and those of Illinois's Dick Durbin, D). "Today, I am calling on Senator Donnelly to return the campaign contributions from Senator Feinstein and Senator Durbin, and pledge to not take any more money or attend any fundraisers with Feinstein and Durbin until they both apologize," he said. "Bigotry targeted at someone's religion is beyond the pale." If you agree, sign our petition to the U.S. Senate here.  

For more on the Feinstein fallout, check out this piece from FRC's Travis Weber, "Can a Christian Serve as a Judge Anymore?"

Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

Also in the September 13 Washington Update:

A GOPlea on Trans Policy

Hostile Territory for Religion in America

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