Imagine that you’re in the middle of a job interview.
Things are going well. Your entire career has led you to this job, and you’re ready to get to work. As things start to wrap up, the interviewer notices that you’re a member of a religious service organization.
You’re proud of the work your church does to serve your neighbors. You smile and start to talk about the Special Olympics kids you’ve mentored and people you helped during the recent flooding.
Then you’re thrown a curveball.
The interviewer stops you and pointedly asks, if hired, “Do you intend to end your membership with this organization to avoid any appearance of bias?”
That’s nuts. Sadly, that’s exactly the question Brian Buescher faced from a senator during his confirmation hearing to become U.S. District Judge for the District of Nebraska. Brian was attacked for his volunteer work in the Knights of Columbus, the largest Catholic service organization.
Here’s the good news: After months of defending Brian, we won — and he’s now Judge Buescher.
Judge Buescher was confirmed by the Senate by a vote of 51-40 — and he’ll still be able to serve his community as part of the Knights of Columbus.
Just like a whole bunch of Nebraskans, Brian joined the Knights to give back and to be a good neighbor. These are the guys who fry fish and sell Tootsie Rolls after church to help care for their communities. Every year, the Knights raise millions of dollars for charities and volunteer millions of hours.
The unmistakable implication of the question was that Brian’s religious beliefs and his affiliation with this Catholic organization made him unfit for federal service.
That’s just wrong. Our Founders wrote the Constitution to protect individual liberty. We limit government to empower our citizens. The five freedoms of the First Amendment — religion, speech, press, assembly, and protest — define who we are as a people. The Constitution itself explicitly bans imposing religious tests on public servants.
As a judge, it is now Brian Buescher’s job to uphold the rule of law and protect Nebraskans’ inalienable rights. But during his confirmation hearings, some of my colleagues actively threatened his.
Judge Buescher knows that the black robe he’ll put on isn’t a partisan jersey. When it comes to the rule of law, there’s no Republican or Democrat. It’s basic civics: Congress makes the laws, the president executes them and the courts interpret them in cases and controversies.
Thankfully, the Senate passed a resolution I introduced to rebuke this anti-Catholic bigotry. Brian didn’t have to answer those egregious questions about whether he’d abandon the Knights of Columbus. The Constitution is unambiguous: There shall be no religious tests for public officials.
Judge Buescher’s confirmation is a big win for religious liberty and the Constitution. The fight isn’t over though.
Religious liberty faces grave danger in this country. Some members of the Judiciary Committee continue to ask these sorts of aggressive, bigoted, unconstitutional questions about nominees’ religious beliefs. Some state governments have been imposing undue burdens on religious citizens. The trend seems to be moving away from our founding principles of pluralism and toleration.
I joined the Judiciary Committee to fight to put constitutionalists on the bench, and that’s why I’m grateful for the judges President Trump has put forward.
To date, we’ve confirmed 130 judges — including two Supreme Court justices. They understand that their job is to protect Americans’ constitutional liberties, not to make up laws. That’s exactly what Judge Buescher is going to do.
And that’s a win for Nebraska.