Democrats Accuse Clergy of Complicity With GOP at Hearing

Religious leaders take an oath before testifying on Capitol Hill about the administration's contraceptive policy and religious freedom.

Democratic lawmakers exchanged testy words with their Republican counterparts at a House hearing Thursday that intensified the debate over President Obama’s recent mandate on contraception. One Democrat even called into question the good faith of the broad array of clergymen who served on the witness panel.

“I believe today’s hearing is a sham,” said Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Va., of the first of two session held by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee during the day. His tone sharp and finger pointed, Connolly went on to declare the witnesses — who included a Catholic bishop, a Lutheran reverend, an Orthodox rabbi, and two Baptist theologians, all opposed to the administration’s recent ruling — “complicit” in the Republicans’ “trampling” of House traditions that would, if observed, have produced a more balanced panel.

“You are being used for a political agenda,” Connolly told the holy men, after Republicans brandished images of President Kennedy and others to buttress their points. “This is a panel designed — with your conscious participation or not — to try, one more time, to embarrass the president of the United States and his administration, by overstating an issue which is sacred to all Americans: religious freedom. But of course, in order to do it, we have to, in an almost Stalinist-like fashion, have signs of Democratic icons to rub Democratic faces in it, as if those icons would be on the same side of this dispute today.”

Earlier, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the Democrat who serves as the District of Columbia’s non-voting representative in the House, clashed with the panel’s chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., about the composition of the panel.

“I want to have the right to make a parliamentary inquiry!” she yelled. [More]

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