Sen. Ben Sasse on Wednesday won Senate approval of a resolution that in effect rejected objections raised by two Democratic senators about U.S. District Court nominee Brian Buescher's affiliation with the Knights of Columbus and its possible impact on his judicial decisions.
The resolution was approved without objection, essentially dismissing concerns expressed in questions submitted to Buescher following a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing considering his nomination to a seat on the court in Nebraska.
Sasse said the resolution "reaffirms our oath of office to a Constitution that rejects religious bigotry" and honors a Constitution that "explicitly rejects religious tests for federal office."
Democratic Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii had raised questions about Buescher's membership in an organization that they said has taken strong positions regarding abortion and same-sex marriage.
In written questions sent to Buescher, an Omaha attorney, Hirono said "the Knights of Columbus has taken a number of extreme positions" on issues that might come before the court.
In response, Buescher said that his activities with the organization essentially consisted of charitable work and community events at his Catholic parish.
Sasse said the questioning carried the clear implication that Buescher's religious affiliation marked him as "potentially unfit for federal service."
That, he said, was "the same kind of garbage" thrown at Sen. John F. Kennedy when he was a candidate for president in 1960.
Sasse's resolution declared that "it is the sense of the Senate that disqualifying a nominee to federal office on the basis of membership in the Knights of Columbus" would violate the Constitution.
"No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States," the Constitution states.
The Knights of Columbus is a Catholic fraternal service organization.