U.S. Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) on Wednesday decided to impose a possibly unconstitutional religious test for a Biden Dept. of Justice nominee, asking attorney Hampton Dellinger, “Do you believe in God?”
It was a stunning moment, one that the 69-year old Senator from Louisiana, who earned his law degree at the University of Virginia and studied law at Oxford did not even appear to understand, despite the U.S. Constitution explicitly stating: “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
Hampton Dellinger, as The National law Journal reported, was appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday, before Republicans who bristled at his nomination to head the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Policy.
Sen. Kennedy took particular offense at one of Dellinger’s tweets, which correctly notes that if there were no Republican men in elected office, there would be no bans on abortion.
Yes, there are some women GOPers and a tiny # of Dems who want government not women to control women’s bodies. But if there were no Republican men in elected office, there would be no abortion bans.
— Hampton Dellinger (@HampDellinger) May 18, 2019
Kennedy made a big show of the tweet, nearly bullying Dellinger with it, demanding to know if he wrote it, then declaring, paper in hand, “Here it is, bigger than Dallas.”
That’s when Kennedy invoked God.
“Do you believe in God?” the Republican Senator asked through his slow Southern drawl, one refined for the cable news channel audiences.
“Senator,” Dellinger respectfully responded, “I have faith.”
“Do you think that my votes with respect to abortion are based on the fact that I want to control women?” Kennedy pummeled.
“Senator, I cannot speak to that,” Dellinger respectfully replied.
“Why did you say it in front of God and country”” Kennedy berated. “Did it ever occur to you that some people may base their position on abortion on their faith?”
Somewhat taken aback, Dellinger replied, “I sincerely appreciate that people have a different position on abortion than I do.”
“I do believe that the reproductive rights established in Roe vs. Wade, and then then dealt with in Casey, June Medical, and other Supreme Court decisions are important,” he added.
He also tried to defend himself, saying: “I recognize the difference between someone saying something inartfully as a private citizen and working as a lawyer, and I think I’ve got a 30-year track record of being open-minded.”
Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern, who highlighted the exchange on social media, observed: “Can you imagine the reaction on the right if a Democratic senator posed that question to literally any Republican nominee?”
He also reminded that Senator Josh Hawley had “claimed that merely asking Amy Coney Barrett about Griswold v. Connecticut, the landmark decision establishing a constitution right to contraception, constituted ‘religious bigotry’ against Catholics.”
The GOP position appears to be: Democrats aren’t allowed to ask Republican nominees any question that might tangentially relate to religion, even if the nominee has said their religion informs their views. But Republicans can impose a religious test on Democratic nominees.
— Mark Joseph Stern (@mjs_DC) July 29, 2021
Here’s Republican Sen. John Kennedy imposing a religious test on Hampton Dellinger, a Biden nominee to the Justice Department. “Do you believe in God?” pic.twitter.com/Q9Mk3OpsRY
— Mark Joseph Stern (@mjs_DC) July 29, 2021
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