Conservatives Rally for Justices

At the
At the "Justice Sunday II" rally, Rep. Tom DeLay decried "judicial supremacy, judicial autocracy" by "activist courts." (By John Russell -- Associated Press)
By Thomas B. Edsall
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 15, 2005

NASHVILLE, Aug. 14 -- Prominent conservative political and religious leaders called Sunday night for Senate approval of Supreme Court nominees who will vote to end the constitutional right to abortion, against recognition of same-sex marriage and for fewer restrictions on religious expression in public places.

The Supreme Court has sanctioned "the right to kill unborn children" and opened the door to legalized "homosexual sodomy," declared Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, which co-sponsored "Justice Sunday II."

James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, told the 2,200 mostly white people in Two Rivers Baptist Church: "It doesn't matter what we think. The court rules." The Supreme Court, he said in a video broadcast, has created "an oligarchy. It's the government by the few."

Rejected Supreme Court nominee Robert H. Bork warned that the high court has defined homosexuality as "a constitutional right . . . and once homosexuality is defined as a constitutional right, there is nothing the states can do about it, nothing the people can do about it."

The event was billed as an attempt to awaken Christians to the importance of appointments to the Supreme Court, but it also served as a televised rally supporting President Bush's nomination of John G. Roberts Jr. Conservative leaders here said they hope Roberts will be the first of three or more Supreme Court justices to be chosen by Bush, whose confirmations would fundamentally alter the high court.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) said "activist courts" are imposing "state-sanctioned same-sex marriage" and "partial-birth abortion" and are "ridding the public square of any mention of our nation's religious heritage" in what amounts to "judicial supremacy, judicial autocracy."

In Supreme Court rulings, DeLay said, "rights are invented out of whole cloth. Long-standing traditions are found to be unconstitutional. Moral values that have defined the progress of human civilization for millennia are cast aside in favor of those espoused by a handful of unelected, lifetime-appointed judges."

The mega-church just across the highway from the Grand Ole Opry was packed, and the speeches were televised to other churches, on some local and cable stations and on four Christian television networks.

DeLay was the star in a procession of speakers that included former senator Zell Miller (D-Ga.), Prison Fellowship Ministries founder Chuck Colson and Eagle Forum President Phyllis Schlafly.

Miller criticized the court because it "removed prayer from our public schools . . . legalized the barbaric killing of unborn babies, and it is ready to discard like an outdated hula hoop the universal institution of marriage between a man and a woman."

Speakers compared the civil rights movement of the 1960s to demands now by Christian groups for restoration of traditional morality. "It's time we move to the front of the bus and that we take command of the wheel," said William A. Donohue, president of the Catholic League.

Liberal religious leaders denounced Justice Sunday at a news conference. "The people who are putting together Justice Sunday seem to be far more interested in power than in justice," said Barry Lynn, head of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. "They now control the White House and the Congress. This is an effort to guarantee they will control the courts as well."

The purpose of Justice Sunday is to "help Christians who care about judicial activism to better understand what judges who legislate from the bench have done to the country," Perkins said. The case against judicial activism is "a very easy case to make," requiring only the citing of court rulings against school prayer and liberalizing the treatment of gays and the abortion rights case Roe v. Wade .

Harry R. Jackson Jr., senior pastor at Hope Christian Church in College Park, Md., said the "Christian community is experiencing a new unity around the moral values that we share because of common faith." Jackson, who is black, said that appointing judges who will strictly interpret the Constitution is advantageous to blacks. "If justice matters to anybody in America, it matters to minorities and to people who have historically been at the bottom of the barrel" who will not have "to deal with a maverick judge changing the law at the last minute."

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