In December, CNA reported that Senators Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) raised concerns about a judicial nominee's Catholic faith and membership of the Knights of Columbus. The issues were raised in questions put to Brian C. Buescher, an Omaha-based lawyer nominated by President Trump to sit on the United States District Court for the District of Nebraska.
In her questions, Hirono said that "the Knights of Columbus has taken a number of extreme positions" by supporting basic Catholic beliefs regarding abortion and marriage.
The Knights of Columbus has nearly 2 million members. Last year they carried out more than 75 million hours of volunteer work and raised more than $185 million for charitable purposes.
Harris described the Knights as "an all-male society" which is "opposed a woman's right to choose" and against "marriage equality." In the light of his Catholic faith and membership of the Knights, both senators questioned Buescher's ability to apply the law fairly and objectively as judge.
Referring to Hirono and Harris's questions to Buescher, Gabbard wrote that while she personally opposed his candidacy for a judgeship, she "stands strongly against those who are fomenting religious bigotry, citing as disqualifiers Buescher's Catholicism and his affiliation with the Knights of Columbus."
"While I absolutely believe in the separation of church and state as a necessity to the health of our nation, no American should be asked to renounce his or her faith or membership in a faith-based, service organization in order to hold public office," Gabbard wrote.
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"The party that worked so hard to convince people that Catholics and Knights of Columbus like Al Smith and John F. Kennedy could be both good Catholics and good public servants shows an alarming disregard of its own history in making such attacks today."
Hirono hit back Tuesday at her fellow Hawaiian Democrat's comments. A spokesman for the senator said Gabbard "based her misguided opinion on the far-right wing manipulation of these straightforward questions."
Last month, a spokesperson for the Knights of Columbus said the senators' conduct recalled past periods of anti-Catholic discrimination.