Republicans grill Biden judicial pick for upholding COVID-19 religious service curbs

Maria J. Smith

U.S. District Decide John Lee, a nominee to the Chicago-centered 7th U.S. Circuit Court docket of Appeals, seems prior to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington, D.C., on May well 11, 2022. U.S. Senate/Handout through REUTERS

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  • Decide John Lee is nominated to 7th Circuit
  • Republicans concentrate on decision upholding Illinois governor’s keep-at-property buy

(Reuters) – U.S. Senate Republicans on Wednesday sharply questioned a decide nominated for a seat on a federal appeals court about his selection early in the COVID-19 pandemic to uphold a continue to be-at-property get by Illinois’ governor that constrained in-individual church services.

U.S. District Choose John Lee, President Joe Biden’s pick to provide on the Chicago-centered 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, advised the Senate Judiciary Committee that the suitable to freedom of faith was 1 of the “bedrocks” of the U.S. Constitution.

But Republicans accused Lee of treating residences of worship unfavorably by upholding Democratic Governor J.B. Pritzker’s March 2020 order, which limited gatherings to no a lot more than 10 people at church buildings and other institutions to minimize the unfold of the coronavirus.

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Lee appeared at the listening to together with U.S. District Choose Salvador Mendoza of the Jap District of Washington, a nominee to the San Francisco-based mostly 9th U.S. Circuit Courtroom of Appeals. But Lee bore the brunt of Republicans’ thoughts.

Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, the committee’s chair, defended Lee as an exceptional nominee who was “adhering to the law that had been established” and whose Might 2020 decision was upheld by the 7th Circuit.

But Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri observed the U.S. Supreme Court docket in similar instances months later on backed worries by houses of worship to related collecting limitations in New York and California.

“The Supreme Courtroom took a absolutely distinctive look at,” Hawley stated. “Help me fully grasp how you looked at the exact same Structure and arrived to a fully distinct conclusion. Why is it Alright to solitary out religious individuals for disfavor?”

Lee, who would be the initial Asian American to provide on the 7th Circuit, stressed his ruling was early in the pandemic and that he did not have the profit of the Supreme Court’s rulings.

At the time, he stated, he regarded the accumulating constraints “similar” to all those for faculties that have been compelled to shut and secular corporations deemed non-vital like movie theaters.

“Is just not it a small bit distinctive, the ideal to bowl or watch a movie than what is secured by the 1st Amendment?” Senator Mike Lee of Utah, who is not relevant, responded.

Lee, the nominee, stated “plainly these actions are unique,” but he was hunting at whether Pritzker’s purchase treated secular things to do similarly or otherwise than religious kinds.

“If a scenario have been to appear prior to me now, I would examine the information very carefully in light-weight of the expectations the Supreme Court docket has additional a short while ago announced,” Lee mentioned.

Read through additional:

Biden proceeds crusade to diversify federal judgeships with 5 new picks

U.S. Supreme Courtroom backs religious teams more than New York virus curbs

U.S. Supreme Court sides with challenge to California’s COVID-19 spiritual service curbs

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