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Culture Warrior Xavier Becerra is Unqualified to Lead HSS Department | Opinion

Newsweek logo Newsweek 2/19/2021 Brian Burch
Gavin Newsom, Xavier Becerra are posing for a picture: California attorney general Xavier Becerra (R) speaks as California Gov. Gavin Newsom (L) looks on during a news conference at the California justice department on September 18, 2019 in Sacramento, California. © Justin Sullivan/Getty California attorney general Xavier Becerra (R) speaks as California Gov. Gavin Newsom (L) looks on during a news conference at the California justice department on September 18, 2019 in Sacramento, California.

President Joe Biden regularly touts his Catholic faith despite advancing a policy agenda deeply unpopular with religious Americans. He has now nominated the co-chair of Catholics for Biden, California attorney general Xavier Becerra, to be his secretary of Health and Human Services. Catholics tempted to welcome this nomination may be surprised by Becerra's record.

Becerra has been nominated to lead one of our most important government agencies, tasked with enhancing the health and wellbeing of all Americans. Yet he is a deeply partisan and ideologically driven nominee with no formal education, training or background in medicine or health. His most notable experience could best be described as waging left-wing culture wars while serving as attorney general of California.

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Like the president who nominated him, Becerra has a track record of open hostility to the moral teachings of the Catholic Church. He is flagrant in his opposition to Catholic teaching on family, marriage, biological science, religious freedom and of course, the pre-eminent issue of the sanctity of human life.

Perhaps the most egregious example of Becerra's commitment to political warfare is his years-long legal battle with the Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of nuns who care for the elderly poor.

Obama administration officials notoriously dragged these nuns to the Supreme Court over a mandate forcing them to provide certain types of contraception and abortion-inducing drugs. After years of litigation, the Supreme Court ruled for the Little Sisters in 2016, and in 2017 the Trump administration granted them full conscience protections.

Becerra, however, wasn't satisfied. He sued the Trump administration in an attempt to block the protections granted to the Little Sisters and similar faith-based groups.


Video: Xavier Becerra recounts working class roots, father's death at HHS confirmation hearing (USA TODAY)

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Becerra's rigid posture opposed all religious-liberty accommodations, arguing "millions of women in California may be left without access to contraceptives" and that the rule would cause "immediate and irreparable harm" to the state.

These baseless accusations were soon exposed—Becerra's office couldn't identify a single person who would lose contraception coverage. Furthermore, Becerra hadn't sued to overturn similar protections for big corporations, and even admitted there were other resources in California for women seeking contraceptives.

Unsurprisingly, the Supreme Court ruled for the Little Sisters a second time in 2020. Then-candidate Biden blasted the Court's decision, pledging to restart the war on the Little Sisters if elected.

Becerra's crusade against people of faith didn't end with Catholic nuns. As attorney general, he renewed his predecessor Kamala Harris's prosecution of David Daleiden, bringing 15 felony charges against the undercover journalist who had exposed Planned Parenthood's role in trafficking the body parts of aborted babies. Even the left-leaning Los Angeles Times editorial board described Becerra's quest as a "disturbing overreach."

As attorney general, Becerra also defended an unconstitutional California law that forced crisis-pregnancy centers to post notices informing would-be patients about state-funded abortion and contraception services. Fortunately, again, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 for the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, arguing the California law violated the First Amendment right to free speech. Had Becerra gotten his way, pro-life pregnancy centers across California would today serve as advertisers for the abortion industry.

Finally, Becerra is most recently known as the legal architect of California governor Gavin Newsom's sweeping COVID-19 shutdown orders, which imposed restrictions on church and worship services. These unconstitutional orders were likewise struck down by the Supreme Court in early February.

President Biden has nominated a deeply unqualified man with a long history of antagonism toward people of faith. Xavier Becerra has consistently used his power to punish political opponents in pursuit of an extreme ideological agenda. The Department of Health and Human Services deserves a secretary with a record of protecting the rights and health of all Americans, not a culture warrior best known for ruthless prosecution of nuns and trying to keep churches closed.

Brian Burch is president of Catholic Vote.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.

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