Councilor quizzes judicial nominee about religious beliefs

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STATE HOUSE — Some might be inclined to distance themselves from Caius Veiovis, who reportedly told jurors he would “see you all in hell” after they convicted him for a 2011 triple murder and dismemberment in Pittsfield.

Not so James Gavin Reardon Jr.

Put in an awkward position about his purported Catholic faith and his beliefs on reproductive law on Wednesday, Reardon, a judicial nominee, cited two former clients as a mark of his open-mindedness.

At the same time as he was defending the Diocese of Worcester in a sexual orientation discrimination suit, “I was also representing a blood-drinking Satanist with horns on his head and 666 tattooed on his forehead, so I think I’m fairly flexible,” Reardon told the Governor’s Council, which is vetting his nomination for a Superior Court judgeship. A vote on his nomination could be taken as early as next Wednesday.

The 58-year-old Shrewsbury attorney, who is “of counsel” to the firm Milton, Laurence & Dixson, faced some pointed questioning from Eileen Duff, a Gloucester Democrat and one of eight members of the elected panel that vets and votes on Gov. Charlie Baker’s judicial nominees.

Reardon’s defense of the Worcester diocese involved questions of “religious principles” in not selling real estate to a buyer that planned to use it for same-sex marriages.

Duff is a lesbian, and she previously worked for the Hospice of the North Shore and Greater Boston as a chaplain, according to her campaign website.

“How about a woman’s right to choose?” Duff asked during Wednesday’s interview with the Georgetown University Law Center graduate, who spent most of his career at a family firm and at his own practice.

“I generally want people to have the maximum amount of freedom that they can have with the least necessary governmental interference, but there are always important societal issues to raise,” Reardon responded.

“You don’t feel that your religious belief would interfere with your judgement on any of this?” Duff asked. “Because we’ve seen it on the U.S. Supreme Court actually interfere with people’s judgement.”

“With all due respect, we haven’t determined what my religious belief is,” Reardon replied.

Duff contended that Reardon had “shared with us that you’re Roman Catholic,” but Reardon said he doesn’t “believe I’ve shared that,” while allowing that he’d defended the Catholic Church.

“Are you Roman Catholic?” Duff asked.

“I’m not really going to get into what my religious beliefs are, respectfully,” Reardon replied.

Shortly after the exchange, the council paused the interview for its regular weekly meeting chaired by Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito. Testifying in favor of Reardon Wednesday was Senate Majority Leader Harriette Chandler, attorneys Paul O’Connor and Elyse Hershon, and private investigator Robert Diaz.

Duff pointed the News Service to Reardon’s questionnaire where he lists himself as a former member of the St. Thomas More Society of the Catholic Diocese of Worcester. Duff told the News Service she was raised a Roman Catholic and will “always be a Roman Catholic at my core.”

Duff is a fairly outspoken liberal Democrat, and the Catholic Church has adopted more conservative views on some social issues.

The United States was founded on a principle of a “separation of church and state.” Though less front-and-center in Massachusetts, religion plays a role in politics around the nation. On Tuesday the two major party candidates for vice president – Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence – spoke at length about their Christian faiths.

— Written by Andy Metzger

Copyright State House News Service