Loren L. AliKhan, Biden’s nominee to be United States District Judge for the District of Columbia
During a Wednesday confirmation hearing for D.C. District Judge Nominee Loren AliKhan, Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) challenged her for having previously defended restrictions on religious services due to COVID-19 concerns.
In the hearing, Hawley questioned AliKhan’s stance on religious discrimination. When asked if she believed it was wrong to discriminate on the basis of religious faith, AliKhan responded affirmatively.
“[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,” asked Hawley.
AliKhan explained that her arguments in the past were made in her role as a representative for her then-client, Mayor Bowser.
On September 22, 2020, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, a historic institution in the nation’s capital, filed a lawsuit against Democrat Mayor Muriel Bowser.
The Church, which has conducted weekly worship services for 142 years, had to shut its doors in March due to Mayor Bowser’s COVID-19 mandates. While initially compliant, the Church has grown frustrated as the Mayor lifted restrictions in other areas such as the BLM protests while maintaining stringent rules for religious gatherings.
As protests unfolded across the city and restrictions eased in other sectors, the Church requested permission to hold its weekly service outdoors, with congregants following public health guidelines, including wearing masks and maintaining social distancing. However, the District denied the request, citing that the Church’s doctrinal obligation of weekly gatherings of the entire congregation contravened the Mayor’s directive prohibiting religious assemblies of more than 100 people, either indoors or outdoors.
AliKhan elaborated that the mayor, after consulting with epidemiologists, had implemented orders she believed would protect public health.
“I was representing my client, the mayor, in consulting epidemiologists, had issued orders that she thought were going to protect public health. It was my role to defend those…” said AliKhan.
“Why’d you make that argument? This seems like a strange argument to me that religious people are somehow what more infectious than folks who have other ideological positions. I don’t get it,” said Hawley.
AliKhan said it was the nature of activities such as singing in religious services that epidemiologists believed could increase the transmission of COVID-19.
Hawley countered by stating that AliKhan had not provided any scientific evidence to back her arguments and accused her of defending religious discrimination. He criticized her for making such arguments and continued to push them without any foundation.
“These were fast moving cases and they weren’t going to full briefing. In full summary judgment with a record,” AliKhan defended.
Hawley retorted that the district court stated that AliKhan, and her client, engaged in and defended discrimination based on religious belief without offering any scientific evidence.
“You can choose what arguments to make. I’m disappointed you made those arguments. I’m disappointed you’ve persisted in defending them here today,” Hawley said, concluding that he would not support her nomination.
Senator @HawleyMO: “Do you think it’s wrong to discriminate on the basis of religious faith?”
Biden’s district judge nominee for D.C Loren AliKhan: “Absolutely.”
Senator Hawley: “Then why did you argue that religious services and religious people pose a greater risk of… pic.twitter.com/lqMPt3Q8x4
— Carrie Severino (@JCNSeverino) June 7, 2023