In December, Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) questioned a judicial nominee from Omaha about his membership in the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organisation, suggesting his membership could disqualify him as a judge.
In response, Sasse submitted a unanimous consent resolution in January defending the group and underscoring the constitutional prohibition of “religious tests” being imposed on candidates for public office. This measure was passed, though Hirono called it an “alt-right” agenda.
Sasse, who is not Catholic, told CNA that he was inspired to write the resolution by the oath of office he swore to defend the Constitution, which forbids religious tests, and that he feels the oppression of any religious group is “a sign that everybody’s religious liberty is at risk.”
Additionally, he added, “I represent a whole bunch of Catholics.”
Nebraska is nearly one-quarter Catholic.
The Knights of Columbus does "unbelievable good work on behalf of their neighbors,” Sasse said. The senator characterized the questions from Harris and Hirono as an attempt to “institute a religious test for being a judge,” which is “an attack on people in my state.”
After the resolution passed, Hirono said that Sasse was “embracing” an “alt-right position” with his resolution--something the Nebraska senator said was “crazy stuff” and "absolutely" an act of cowardice.
"It is truly bizarre for her to double down and now try to call Catholics racist because they're exercising a constitutional right to love their neighbor,” he said.
Sasse said it is notable that Hirono did not take the floor to object to his resolution when it was being considered, and instead took to the Senate floor “when nobody else was back in town.”
“[Hirono] made this bizarre speech implying that people in the Knights of Columbus are not just religiously bigoted, but also racist--I don’t know how to make any sense of the kind of stuff she’s saying, but she didn’t come to the floor and say it in front of her colleagues,” said Sasse.
“I’d love it if she would.”
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“These people need to check their consciences. We believe the reason you're in public life is to maintain a framework of ordered liberty and to celebrate human dignity. That's what American public life is about,” Sasse added.
“The laws exist to protect the most vulnerable among us, and then people can go out and love their neighbor and serve in their community and join the Knights of Columbus and be entrepreneurs and invite people to your church or synagogue. That's what America is about, and you have to start with a clear understanding of defending human dignity, and that starts first and foremost with defending the most vulnerable"
On Monday, Sasse will attempt to get another bill passed by unanimous consent: the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. This bill would penalize doctors and medical professionals who do not provide medical care to infants who survive abortions.
"I don't think there's any legitimate argument that can be made to oppose my legislation," Sasse told CNA. While he hopes that none of his colleagues will object to his bill, if they do, he said, they should “do it in front of the 320 million Americans that are their bosses.”
"And they need to show what side they're on. It's a pretty simple question: are you on the side of these vulnerable little babies, or are you on the side of Gov. Northam and his defense of infanticide?"
Sasse told CNA that it is clear where he stands.