Cross Examination: Do Angels Support Supreme Court Nominations? Do Demons Oppose Them?
jhutson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Dec 12, 2005 at 06:31:46 PM EST

If you oppose the Bush administration's latest nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, does that make you "anti-God"? Apparently so, at least according to a coalition of conservative Christian groups which is supporting the Bush administration's latest Supreme Court nominee. The coalition has backed a strategic communications plan to portray individuals and groups who oppose President George W. Bush's nomination of Judge Samuel A. Alito, Jr., to the U.S. Supreme Court as being "anti-God," according to a Washington Post report. But those Christian leaders apparently did not get around to reading what the United States Constitution says -- or even what the Bible says -- about respecting minority viewpoints, holding the powerful and the dominant culture accountable, and judging everyone fairly, regardless of their private religious beliefs.
On Sunday, December 3, 2005, Post staff writer Charles Babington reported:

Several conservative groups, meanwhile, plan a major push beginning Monday to portray Alito's opponents as anti-God. Talking points for the effort, which will involve ads and grass-roots organizations, were laid out in a strategy memo by Grassfire.org, which opposes abortion and same-sex marriage. Alito's opponents are united by "an agenda to purge any and all references to religion from our public life," the memo says.

The coalition, which includes the Judicial Confirmation Network, plans to send 2.3 million e-mails on the subject and hopes to "flood Senate offices with letters, faxes and phone calls." It will be joined in the effort by Fidelis, a Roman Catholic organization that describes itself as "pro-life, pro-family and pro-religious liberty."

And David D. Kirkpatrick reported in The New York Times on December 6, 2005, that Judge Alito is being packaged in an advertising blitz as the Judge who will save Christmas:

Conservative organizers say the advertisements are the first salvos of a campaign of commercials, talk radio broadcasts and messages to pastors intended to capitalize on the religious feelings of the Christmas season by calling attention to the pattern of support for religious displays in Judge Alito's rulings.

"This is going to be the dominant theme on the Alito nomination until the end of the year-the convergence of a Supreme Court nomination, the Christmas season, and a judge who has a well-staked-out position on support for religious expression," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the Christian conservative American Center for Law and Justice and an adviser tapped by the White House to coordinate support for its nominees.

What does the United States Constitution say?

The U.S. Constitution bans religious tests on judicial nominees. And the Constitution does so in right up front, in the Bill of Rights, which safeguards your individual rights and also puts limits on federal and state governments. According to the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution, supporting a judicial nomination does not make one "pro-God"; opposing a judicial nomination does not make one "anti-God." According to the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution, it is unAmerican to ask judges to adhere to a religious viewpoint, because judges swear to uphold the Constitution. According to the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution, you have freedom of conscience and religious liberty to hold your own private religious beliefs without government imposing sectarian religious viewpoints on you or denying your right to believe as you choose.

Judges take an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution, which states in the Bill of Rights, in Article VI, Clause 3, that there shall be "no religious tests" for public office -- including judicial appointments. So a judge's private religious beliefs do not make him or her either more qualified or less qualified; they are beside the point.

Article VI, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution states, in relevant part, that:

"[J]udicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

What does the Bible say?

The Bible teaches that all people should be judged fairly and on an equal footing -- whether they are rich or poor, powerful or powerless, and regardless of their ethnic background or religious beliefs. Yes, even people "not from around here" should get a fair shake, even if they think differently, according to the lawgiver Moses.

In the desert east of Jordan, Moses appointed wise and respected leaders from every tribe, and he told the Israelite judges to be fair and to respect minority rights (including, for example, the rights of immigrants and foreigners) and hold the powerful accountable. Moses made clear to judges that they should not show favoritism to people on ethnic, cultural, or religious grounds, but that everyone, even people not from Israel, should receive even-handed, fair-minded justice:

"And I charged your judges at that time: Hear the disputes between your brothers and judge fairly, whether the case is between brother Israelites or between one of them and an alien. Do not show partiality in judging; hear both small and great alike." (Deuteronomy 1: 15-17)

Moses appointed judges and instructed him to dispense justice not according to what people believed, but how they behaved. The Bible speaks of justice as a means to uplift people who have no power; for justice is a standard by which the most powerful people are brought low, and the most humble people are lifted up. In Biblical terms, justice is not a tool for imposing cultural preferences on others who believe differently; it's a tool for safeguarding the rights of the minority -- whether that means an ethnic, cultural, or religious minority.

The Book of Proverbs teaches that it is not the powerful, or members of the dominant culture, who most need justice, but the poor people, and the people who get shoved to the sidelines. "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy." (Proverbs 31: 8-9)

Now what would Jesus say about demonizing your neighbors by claiming that they're "pro-God" if they support your partisan political viewpoint or "anti-God" if they disagree with your viewpoint?

Jesus said, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?" (Matthew 7:1-3)

Sometimes, being on God's side on a judicial matter means respecting minority rights against the oppression of the majority. And at other times, to be on God's side means not judging at all, or at least not bullying others with one's private religious opinions. But the Bible does not suggest that support for a partisan political viewpoint is either "pro-God" or "anti-God"; and the U.S. Constitution bans attempts to choose judicial nominees based on their private religious beliefs.

Questions

(1) Since Christians are not a victimized minority, but members of the dominant culture in the United States, what moral responsibilities do Christians in the U.S. have toward people of other faith traditions?

(2) Since the Bible describes justice as a means to secure the rights of all people (regardless of their ethnic, cultural, or religious background) how should Christians respond to judicial nominees who might favor one religious opinion over another, or who might try to impose their interpretation of "Biblical law" on everyone else?

(3) Since the Bible describes justice as a means to "defend the rights of the poor and needy," how should Christians respond to judicial nominees who would favor the wealthy and powerful and deny the rights of ordinary people?




Display:
The New York Times describes Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the Christian conservative American Center for Law and Justice, as "an adviser tapped by the White House to coordinate support for its nominees."

Supreme Court reporter Tony Mauro wrote a profile of Sekulow for the Legal Times on November 1, 2005. In "The Secrets of Jay Sekulow," Mauro writes:
[T]there is another side to Jay Sekulow, one that, until now, has been obscured from the public. It is the Jay Sekulow who, through the ACLJ and a string of interconnected nonprofit and for-profit entities, has built a financial empire that generates millions of dollars a year and supports a lavish lifestyle -- complete with multiple homes, chauffeur-driven cars, and a private jet that he once used to ferry Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

That less-known side of Sekulow was revealed in several interviews with former associates of his and in hundreds of pages of court and tax documents reviewed by Legal Times. Critics say Sekulow's lifestyle is at odds with his role as the head of a charitable organization that solicits small donations for legal work in God's name.

For example, in 2001 one of Sekulow's nonprofit organizations paid a total of $2,374,833 to purchase two homes used primarily by Sekulow and his wife. The same nonprofit also subsidized a third home he uses in North Carolina.

At various times in recent years, Sekulow's wife, brother, sister-in-law, and two sons have been on the boards or payrolls of organizations under his control or have received generous payments as contractors. Sekulow's brother Gary is the chief financial officer of both nonprofit organizations that fund his activities, a fact that detractors say diminishes accountability for his spending.

According to documents filed with the Internal Revenue Service, funds from his nonprofits have also been used to lease a private jet from companies under his family's control. And two years ago, Sekulow outsourced his own legal services from the ACLJ, shifting from a position with a publicly disclosed salary to that of a private contractor that requires no public disclosure. He acknowledged to Legal Times that his salary from that arrangement is "above $600,000" a year.

Sekulow's financial dealings deeply trouble some of the people who have worked for him, leading several to speak with Legal Times during the past six months about their concerns -- before Sekulow assumed his high-profile role promoting President George W. Bush's Supreme Court nominees.

"Some of us truly believed God told us to serve Jay," says one former employee, who requested anonymity out of fear of reprisal. "But not to help him live like Louis XIV. We are coming forward because we need to believe there is fairness in this world."

Another says: "Jay sends so many discordant signals. He talks about doing God's work for his donors, and then he flies off in his plane to play golf."

Still another told Legal Times, "The cause was so good and so valid, but at some point you can't sacrifice what is right for the sake of the cause."

Well, at least he provides well for his family. That's godly, right?


by jhutson on Mon Dec 12, 2005 at 08:29:17 PM EST


Has any connections to the Ford Company executive who recently was caught negotiating deals with the Christian right to pull advertising from gay-friendly magazines and who also  led the push for the Roberts nomination ?

by Bruce Wilson on Mon Dec 12, 2005 at 09:19:53 PM EST

"Born-again Christian" Jew; law degree from Baptist Mercer and PhD from Robertson's Regent University; his own radio pulpit; dicey "non-profit" financial dealings, some involving his family; ethics problems; lavish lifestyle, ferried Scalia in his private jet. Sounds like he fits right in with the current crop of conveniently godly GOP charlatans. Is that what they call the "prosperity gospel"?

On a more serious note, Jonathan, i see the seeds of some powerful ads for the anti-Alito folks in your post.

by Psyche on Mon Dec 12, 2005 at 10:55:09 PM EST



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