Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., told religious leaders testifying in Congress today that they were engaged in "shameful" acts of "political demagoguery" unworthy of their religious offices.
"I believe that today's hearing is a sham," Connolly told a panel of one priest, three pastors, and a Jewish rabbi during a House Oversight and Government Reform hearing today. "Here you are being asked to testify about your rights being trampled on -- an overstatement if there ever was one -- while you're on a panel, and your participation on the panel makes you complicit in of course the trampling of freedom, because we were denied, on this side of the aisle, any witness who might have a differing point of view. And I think that's shameful."
Committee chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., noted at the beginning of the hearing that he had approved one of the two witnesses called by Democrats to testify. The Democrats, Issa explained, chose not to have that witness testify, asking instead that he allow a young woman who attends Georgetown University to testify about the importance of the contraception mandate to her health care.
Continuing his monologue, Connolly made a harsh rebuke of the religious leaders. "I say to you, as a member of this committee who actually shared the concerns you say you have last week, that I think this is a shameful exercise," he said. "And I am very sad you have chosen to participate and be used the way you're being used. Just as you were in the previous questioning, as if people are going to jail over this. Shame! Everybody knows that's not true." The church leaders had agreed, before Connolly spoke, that they would prefer to go to jail rather than violate their consciences by providing contraception and abortifacients to women.
Denouncing Republicans for trying to hurt President Obama politically, Connolly faulted the assembled ministers for "overstating [the religious freedom issues in the mandate] and making charges that are just outlandish and frankly beyond the pale." Such testimony "serves no purpose other than political demagoguery in an election year," he said. "And men and women of the cloth, it seems to me, ought to run not walk away from that line."