The Catholic Action League of Massachusetts called for the resignation of Eileen Duff (D-Gloucester) from the Executive Council of the Commonwealth following her attempt, at a confirmation hearing last Wednesday, to determine if a Baker Administration judicial nominee was a Roman Catholic.
Worcester attorney James Gavin Reardon, Jr. was nominated by Governor James Baker on August 25th as an Associate Justice of the Massachusetts Superior Court. At his confirmation hearing on the morning of October 5th, Eileen Duff, who represents the Fifth Councillor District, began questioning him about his views on abortion.
In an apparent reference to Planned Parenthood talking points following the Hobby Lobby decision, Duff queried, "You don't feel that your religious belief would interfere with your judgment on any of this? Because we've seen it on the U.S. Supreme Court actually interfere with people's judgment." "With all due respect, we haven't determined what my religious belief is," Reardon replied.
Duff contended that Reardon had "shared with us that you’re Roman Catholic," but Reardon said he doesn’t "believe I’ve shared that," while allowing that he’d defended the Catholic Church.
"Are you Roman Catholic?" Duff asked.
"I'm not really going to get into what my religious beliefs are, respectfully," Reardon replied. Duff later brought up Reardon’s former membership in the Saint Thomas More Society of the Diocese of Worcester.
The Catholic Action League called Duff’s line of questioning "outrageous, unconscionable, unheard of, unlawful and unconstitutional."
Catholic Action League Executive Director C. J. Doyle made the following comment: "If a private employer in the Bay State examined an applicant about his religious faith, he would expose himself to civil liabilities, enforcement proceedings before the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, and, potentially, criminal penalties in a court of law."
"Article VI of the U. S. Constitution mandates unequivocally, ‘no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.’ There has been no religious test for state, county or municipal office in Massachusetts since the ratification of the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution of the Commonwealth in 1821."
"Since the establishment of the Fair Employment Practices Commission in 1946, Chapter 151B of the General Laws has prohibited ‘unlawful discrimination because of race, color, religious creed, national origin, ancestry or sex,’ in employment in Massachusetts, while Title VII of the U. S. Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids employers from discriminating in hiring based upon religion."
"No one in living memory can recall a judicial nominee being asked to identify his religion. Although a Catholic should always be willing to affirm his Faith, Reardon was correct, in this circumstance, in refusing to answer an improper question which the interrogator had no right to ask."
"The presumption behind the question by Duff is that Catholicism is suspect, and Catholics cannot be trusted to impartially administer the law. Duff is dredging up from the sewer of bigotry the same accusation of dual loyalty raised by sectarian extremists, nativists and Klansmen against Al Smith in 1928 and John F. Kennedy in 1960."
"The double standard is both predictable and appalling. She would not dare ask if a nominee were Muslim, and if she asked ‘Are you Jewish,’ she would, rightfully, be the object of national media attention. No Unitarian or mainline Protestant has ever been queried about their denominations support for abortion."
"As Councillor Duff, has, obviously, no understanding, respect or sympathy for the constitutional protections and religious freedom guarantees upon which this nation was founded, she ought to resign from office, and stop poisoning the judicial nominating process with her crude prejudices."
Duff, an out lesbian, has been endorsed by MassEquality and praised by NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts. She told the State House News Service that she was raised a Roman Catholic, and "will always be a Roman Catholic at my core." She served, apparently, however, as a non-Catholic chaplain at a secular hospice facility. According to votesmart.org, Duff has a post graduate degree in ministry from a New Age institution, the Wisdom School of Graduate Studies at Ubiquity University in San Francisco, founded in 1996 by Mikhail Gorbachev aide James Garrison, a critic of Catholicism.
James Gavin Reardon’s confirmation vote before the Governor’s Council may occur as early as today.