Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri said he won’t vote for one of President Joe Biden’s judicial nominees Wednesday due to arguments she made that religious Americans were more likely to spread COVID-19.
Loren AliKhan, Biden’s nominee for United States District Judge for the District of Columbia, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday but was confronted by Hawley about her previous arguments regarding religious discrimination. Hawley asked if AliKhan believed it was wrong to discriminate against religious communities and questioned her previous comments about the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Do you think it’s wrong to discriminate on the basis of religious faith?” Hawley asked.
“Absolutely,” AliKhan said.
“Then why did you argue that religious services and religious people pose a greater risk of infection than people gathered to argue for defunding the police,” Hawley replied.
AliKhan told the committee that as the Solicitor General of the District of Columbia, she was defending D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s COVID-19 lockdown orders that did not allow churches to meet or hold services. AliKhan argued that her arguments were made after discussing the issue with epidemiologists, claiming they told her that churches posed more of a risk due to “singing.”
“My understanding was the nature of singing and other things, epidemiologists thought could transmit COVID at a higher rate,” AliKhan said.
Hawley followed up by asking why AliKhan didn’t submit any “scientific evidence in the record” when making those arguments, to which AliKhan replied that the cases were “fast-moving.” Hawley pointed to the district court’s decision, noting that the judge had ruled that the lockdown orders for churches constituted “discrimination.”
“You offered no scientific evidence for it,” Hawley said. “You pressed these arguments over and over and over without any foundation. Frankly, I’m disappointed that you made those arguments, you can choose what arguments to make. … I’m disappointed that you’ve persisted in defending them here today and for that reason, among others, I will not support your nomination.”
AliKhan’s office declined to provide a comment.
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