It Is About Religious Belief
During his nationally televised press conference April 28, President Bush was asked about the Family Research Council's allegation that some of his judicial nominees have been filibustered because of their faith. After considerable probing by MSNBC's David Gregory, the president said he believed that in fact his nominees were being subjected to these stalling tactics not because of their religious beliefs but because of their "judicial philosophy."
Well, I agree with the president that some Democratic senators have targeted the judicial philosophy of the nominees. But that judicial philosophy has been scrutinized and scorned in several cases precisely because of the nominee's belief system or faith -- not because of his or her record. After all, it was Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) -- not the Family Research Council -- who launched an inquiry into one key nominee's "deeply held personal beliefs." Schumer didn't challenge the nominee's "deeply held judicial philosophy," but rather his beliefs.
And what were those personal beliefs? In the case of former Alabama attorney general William Pryor, as with other filibustered nominees, it appears that it was the nominee's personal views on abortion, homosexuality and other matters on which Catholic and evangelical churches have clear positions that are contrary to those of liberal Democrats and their allies. Pryor failed the Democrats' test because he had spoken out, as a Catholic, saying that abortion is an abomination. He was also questioned about postponing a family vacation with his young children to Disney World because he found out it coincided with "Gay Days" at the park.
Leon Holmes and his wife were put to the test because he wrote an article for a church newsletter about the relationship between husbands and wives based upon Ephesians 5:22-25. Judge Charles Pickering was questioned about a statement he made as the head of the Mississippi Southern Baptist Convention, in which he said that the Bible is an "absolute authority" for human conduct -- a standard that just about any religious person would hold. A group called American Atheists blasted Pickering for these statements, even though they were made outside the scope of any government duties or judicial office. The National Organization for Women also attacked Pickering on religious grounds, citing his advice to convicted criminals to consult prison ministries (they have a marked impact on reducing the recidivism rate among convicts, and participation is voluntary) and his occasional use of biblical quotations in his opinions. (By the way, a judge who writes that "the love of money is the root of all evil" or mentions the "lilies of the field" is quoting from the Bible.)
Having "deeply held personal beliefs" such as these was enough to set the liberal pressure groups on edge and trigger filibusters. The pattern that has emerged is that any nominees who hold to the traditional tenets of their faith as a guide for life, whether they be Catholic, Protestant or Jewish, fail the litmus test, the liberal loyalty oath, that is being employed by some Senate Democrats. Faith is acceptable as long as it remains unknown, or is applied only to personal beliefs about such matters as poverty and capital punishment. Call this standard a litmus test on abortion, a de facto screening for religious conviction, or a demand for fealty to the Democratic Party platform -- whatever it's called, the results are the same.
The sometimes subtle, too often open, campaign against orthodox religious views is too important an issue for us to simply turn our heads and ignore the truth. Left unchecked, the climate of intimidation against religious voices will empty the public square of many of its most-needed voices. Our children, and our children's children, must never be asked to choose between publicly acknowledging their faith by teaching a Sunday school or catechism class and serving in high public office. We must never reward those whose methods of inquiry involve carrying tape recorders into private meetings, Bible study, church services and the chambers of conscience.
In their zeal to preserve an imperial judiciary, liberals have taken abuse of the confirmation process to a new low. The way out is to vote on each nominee on his or her merits.
The writer is president of the Family Research Council.