Senate Democrats have taken advantage of the nuclear option to confirm one of President Obama's most extreme judicial nominees.
All fifty-five Democratic senators and one Republican voted Wednesday night to cut off debate on the nomination of Cornelia Pillard to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. And at 12:52 a.m. on Thursday, 51 senators, all Democrats, voted to confirm Pillard to the country's second most important court.
Pillard revealed her extreme hostility to religious liberty in 2011 remarks on the case Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church v. EEOC, which had not yet been decided by the Supreme Court and involved the right of the Lutheran Church to determine who qualified as a Lutheran minister.
"The Lutheran Church’s position here is a substantial threat to the American rule of law," Pillard said at a press conference. "It would effectively empower any religion to create its own autonomous Vatican City-style regime for employment-law purposes, a sovereign unto itself over which the federal courts lack civil rights jurisdiction."
"It is hard to see the Supreme Court deciding that that is what the First Amendment law requires," Pillard added. A few months later, all nine Supreme Court justices ruled in favor of the Lutheran Church.
As legal expert Edward Whelan noted at the time:
In its unanimous ruling today in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church v. EEOC, the Supreme Court held that the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause bar ministers from invoking the employment-discrimination laws against the religious organizations that employ them.
Chief Justice Roberts’s opinion on behalf of the entire Court affirms that the so-called “ministerial exception” to employment-discrimination laws is firmly rooted in the First Amendment’s Religion Clauses, including the Court’s decisions establishing that “it is impermissible for the government to contradict a church’s determination of who can act as its ministers.” The opinion thus rejects the remarkably hostile contentions of the Obama administration that there is no general ministerial exception and that religious organizations are limited to the right to freedom of association that labor unions and social clubs enjoy.