Dem senators to judicial appointee: Why did you join the extremist ... Knights of Columbus?

Nearly 160 years after the party disbanded, Know-Nothingism lives surprisingly well in the Democratic Party. Last year it emerged when Sen. Dianne Feinstein expressed her fear that Amy Coney Barrett’s Catholic “dogma lives loudly within you” in Barrett’s confirmation hearing. Now two other members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have demanded to know why another Catholic judicial nominee joined a group with “extreme positions,” a story first picked up over the weekend by Catholic News Agency’s Ed Condon:

Senators Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) raised concerns about membership in the Knights of Columbus while the Senate Judiciary Committee reviewed the candidacy of Brian C. Buescher, an Omaha-based lawyer nominated by President Trump to sit on the United States District Court for the District of Nebraska.

Senators also asked whether belonging to the Catholic charitable organization could prevent judges from hearing cases “fairly and impartially.”

In written questions sent to Buescher by committee members Dec. 5, Sen. Hirono stated that “the Knights of Columbus has taken a number of extreme positions. For example, it was reportedly one of the top contributors to California’s Proposition 8 campaign to ban same-sex marriage.”

Hirono then asked Buescher if he would quit the group if he was confirmed “to avoid any appearance of bias.”

The Knights of Columbus are about as extremist as your average Rotary Club, as Paul Mirengoff noted last night. It’s a community service organization within the Catholic laity, whose forays into politics are in support of traditional Catholic teachings. Its individual members are probably likely to be regular Mass participants and more engaged in living those teachings as well. That, of course, is the point of social organizations in a church.

What were those “extreme positions,” by the way? Proposition 8 codified in the California constitution that marriage was between a man and a woman, a position publicly held by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton as late as 2012. The referendum also received around 53% of the vote in California four years prior to that, which doesn’t necessarily make it right but sure as heck doesn’t make it extremist. Its other “extreme positions” are in opposition to contraception and abortion, and opposition to federal support for organizations that provide the latter.

Ramesh Ponnuru sniffs out the scent of Know-Nothing anti-Catholicism, and a broader hostility to Christianity in general, in the letter from Hirono and Harris:

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.

Ponnuru hits the nail on the head. The letter’s demands for answers about (and demands for denouncement of) the K of C aren’t really about that organization at all. It’s an attempt to sidestep Feinstein’s faux pas of attacking a nominee’s Catholic faith directly, using the Knights as a body shield. We’re not attacking the Catholic Church, they will claim, we’re just asking questions about an “extremist” group! Not only is this an unconstitutional religious test from two Democratic senators, it’s a particularly gutless attack at that.

Even more basically, this shows who the extremists really are. It’s not the group that organizes charitable efforts at the parish level and raises money with pancake breakfasts in the social halls. It’s the party who demands that anyone entering public service show fealty to the abortion-on-demand regime they want to impose on everyone else.

Oh, and just for the record: I am not now nor have I ever been a member of the Knights of Columbus. I dig the uniforms, though. All kidding aside, they’re a great group of men who do really good work in our communities. They deserve a lot better treatment than this. Hirono and Harris should be ashamed of themselves.

Addendum: This is a classy move by the local K of C chapter in DC:

A Washington council of the Knights of Columbus has invited two U.S. senators to join them in charitable service, after those senators objected to a federal judicial nominee’s membership in the organization.

The Patrick Cardinal O’Boyle Council 11302 of the Knights of Columbus published this week an open letter to Sens. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, and Kamala Harris, D-Calif., addressing the senators’ recent objections to social and political positions affiliated with the Knights of Columbus.

The letter said the council had “read about statements which expressed the fear that the Knights of Columbus held many extreme beliefs. It is our great pleasure to assure you that this fear is not grounded in any truth. The Knights of Columbus in general, and the O’Boyle Council in particular, are dedicated to the three fundamental principles of charity, unity and fraternity.” …

The local Knights’ letter invited the senators to join the group at its February Polar Plunge, during which participants will jump into cold water to raise money for the D.C. Special Olympics.

“We hope this list of activities helps to assure you that we are simply a group aiming to do God’s work while building friendships,” the letter said.

If nothing else, perhaps it’ll cool off the poisonous partisanship around the Senate Judiciary Committee these days.