Thursday, October 13, 2005

The religious litmus test

Washington Post reports on the role of religion in the Meirs nomination: "Liberals jumped on Dobson's comments to accuse the White House of imposing a religious litmus test, or of invoking faith to signal to conservatives that Miers would rule as they wish on such questions as restricting abortion rights. Ralph G. Neas, president of People for the American Way, noted that conservatives complained when anyone questioned the influence of faith during the recent confirmation of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

'It's hypocrisy doubled and quadrupled,' Neas said. 'What's wrong for John Roberts can't be right for Harriet Miers. . . . The president and his people are using repeated assurances about Miers's religion to send not-so-subtle messages about how she might rule on the court on issues important to the president's political supporters.'

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.), the Judiciary Committee's ranking Democrat, signaled his party may have more questions about the Rove-Dobson communications. 'The rest of America, including the Senate, deserves to know what he and the White House know,' Leahy said of Dobson in a statement. 'We don't confirm justices of the Supreme Court on a wink and a nod. And a litmus test is no less a litmus test by using whispers and signals.'"


At 3:47 PM, Anonymous Edmund Burke said...

Don't lose sight of the big picture here. Now we see the real danger to which the President's political calculations concerning Ms. Miers has opened the door. The President tried to signal the religious right that Ms. Miers can be trusted to enact her evangelical Christian beliefs into law thru Supreme Court decisions, such as outlawing abortion. But in doing so, Mr. Bush also revealed that he and his Administration are either profoundly ignorant or must instead have a most cynical and even more profound contempt for the US Constitution itself. Perhaps thru pressured political miscalcuation, Mr. Bush now has brought the most important question about his Supreme Court nominees to the foreground. Perhaps now it will be possible to show to all the American people just what this Republican, so-called "conservative" majority is all about: the cynical exploitation of those with religious beliefs who wish to see those beliefs imposed thru law on all Americans. The religious right now is beginning to sense the duplicity here: the Republican insiders and leaders don't want their new Supreme Court appointees actually to succeed in establishing in law religious beliefs about abortion or any other hot button social issue -- to do that would take the issue away. With abortion outlawed, who would carry the signs and march for the conservative cause? But if Mr. Bush's nominees act as independent judges, as they should, and fail to outlaw abortion, why then Republicans can still carry on as though they were frustrated by those shadowy "liberal" elites in the courts. Without the abortion issue, the army of the faithful might turn to other concerns and away from marching together with Republicans. These faithful might even turn to issues like economic justice for themselves as middle class people as well as America's deteriorating infrastructure at the hands of these cynical modern day robber barons. They might awaken to the massive growth in government under these so-called "conservatives" while government's competence and efficiency in providing for the public interest has plummeted on their watch. What every American needs to understand is that deciding questions like abortion or any other issue before the US Supreme Court by establishing in law one's religious beliefs -- beliefs to be imposed on everyone -- is unconstitutional on its face. Thomas Jefferson could not have been more clear on this. The right of each and every American to practice his or her own religion, or no religion at all, is among the most fundamental of freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. The Constitution's framers understood very well that religious liberty can flourish only if the government leaves religion alone. The free exercise clause of the First Amendment guarantees the right to practice one's religion free of government interference. The establishment clause requires the separation of church and state. So, it doesn't matter what church Ms. Miers goes to -- if she can't leave her religion out of her judicial decision making, then she can't be qualified to be a US Supreme Court Justice. That is the issue that now must come out during confirmation hearings. That is the question I most want to hear asked: is it appropriate, or even constitutional to base Supreme Court decisions on religious beliefs?


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