Hawley, Cruz urge Trump to nix judicial nominee who compared Catholic beliefs to KKK views

Sens. Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz -- both Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee -- are calling on President Trump to withdraw the nomination of a lawyer for a lifetime federal court appointment, accusing the nominee of opposing religious freedom and expressing anti-Catholic views.

The nomination of Michael S. Bogren, a Michigan lawyer who was nominated to be a district judge for the District Court for the Western District of Michigan, has been met with fierce conservative resistance for the candidate's likening of religious beliefs to the racist views of the Ku Klux Klan.

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Hawley, a Missouri Republican and a former state attorney general, wrote in an op-ed for the National Review that “the right to religious free exercise enshrined in the First Amendment is the fundamental freedom, and we need judges who will uphold it,” adding that “Michael Bogren’s answers are not acceptable for a judicial nominee. We can and must do better.”

Cruz, a Texas Republican, issued his view in a Twitter message Friday.

“Agree. I’m a NO," the senator wrote. "And POTUS should withdraw this nomination."

Their opposition stems from Bogren arguing in court against a Roman Catholic farmer who opposed same-sex weddings on his farm, saying such marriages violated his religious beliefs.

He went on to compare his opposition to same-sex weddings on the farm to a KKK member refusing to allow an interracial wedding.

Hawley, a firebrand freshman senator, grilled Bogren on the case last week, asking him whether he still believes a “Catholic family’s pointing to the teachings of their church is equivalent to a KKK member invoking Christianity.”

Bogren said, “I stand by those comparisons,” during the exchange, though noted that “this is not ideological.”

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Hawley quoted Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy to emphasize why Bogren’s comparison particularly struck a nerve and why it’s important to continue the scrutiny.

"Let me remind you of a case in the United States Supreme Court that you would be obliged to uphold, the Masterpiece Cake Shop case,” the senator said.

In Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the Supreme Court decided 7-2 in June 2018 in favor of a Colorado baker who had refused to serve a same-sex couple, citing his religious beliefs.

“In that case, Justice Kennedy wrote for a majority of the court that a government official who compared the petitioner’s invocation of a sincerely held religious beliefs to defenses of slavery and the Holocaust ‘demonstrated impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious belief that motivated his objection.’”

"Justice Kennedy wrote for a majority of the court that a government official who compared the petitioner’s invocation of a sincerely held religious beliefs to defenses of slavery and the Holocaust ‘demonstrated impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious belief that motivated his objection.’”

— Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., member of Senate Judiciary Committee

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He added: “Your language comparing a Catholic family’s beliefs to the KKK and to the teachings of radical Islam seems to me to be exactly on point with what Justice Kennedy is saying here.”

In addition to Cruz and Hawley, more than 70 prominent conservatives signed a letter opposing Bogren's confirmation.

“We believe that his suspect judicial philosophy as it relates to America’s First Freedom renders him unqualified for this position. We urge that his nomination be withdrawn,” read the letter by Conservative Action Project, a group that includes former Attorney General Edwin Meese III, former U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina and Family Research Council President Tony Perkins.