Alito Wants to Meet With Dobson
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu Mar 02, 2006 at 12:44:37 AM EST
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Getting confirmed to the Supreme Court can be a difficult and highly political process. Associate Justice Samuel Alito certainly understands that as well as anyone. But he also stressed over and over again in his confirmation hearings that he would seek to abide by the law and the constitution, and not by any preconceived political agenda.  

Well, OK. Then why does he want to meet with James Dobson, head of Focus on the Family and one of the top leaders of the Christian Right?  

The story, now all over the media, exploded when Dobson read a thank-you letter from Alito on his national, Focus on the Family radio show.

The Colorado Springs Gazette has the text of the letter as read by Dobson on his March 1 radio show:

Text of Alito's letter to Dobson

Here is the text of a letter that Focus on the Family founder James Dobson said he received from Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. Dobson read the letter on his radio broadcast Wednesday.

Dear Dr. Dobson:

This is just a short note to express my heartfelt thanks to you and the entire staff of Focus on the Family for your help and support during the past few challenging months.

I would also greatly appreciate it if you would convey my appreciation to the good people from all parts of the country who wrote to tell me that they were praying for me and for my family during this period.

As I said when I spoke at my formal investiture at the White House last week, the prayers of so many people from around the country were a palpable and powerful force.

As long as I serve on the Supreme Court I will keep in mind the trust that has been placed in me.

I hope that we'll have the opportunity to meet personally at some point in the future.

In the meantime my entire family and I hope that you and the Focus on the Family staff know how we appreciate all that you have done.

Sincerely yours,

Samuel Alito

The media, including The New York Times reports that Alito sent thank you notes to many supporters, and that seems to be the official spin.

According to a court spokeswoman quoted by the Times:  

The justice has responded to scores of congratulatory letters from people of all walks of life, and he has included as a standard sentiment in the letters the hope that he will live up to the trust and confidence that has been placed in him," Ms. Arberg said.

She declined to identify who else had received such letters from Justice Alito.

Dobson crowed to his constituents, how important it was that the nominees they supported are -- now that they are on the court. The Times reported:

In his broadcast on Wednesday, Dr. Dobson indicated that he had taken that as a request to share the letter with his audience. Celebrating the Supreme Court confirmations of both Justice Alito and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., Dr. Dobson said, "We do not yet know how these men will vote, but every indication is that they get it, they understand."

Their confirmation may be "just in time," Dr. Dobson said, "because partial-birth abortion is now being considered by the Supreme Court."

In an e-mail message on Wednesday, Dr. Dobson said it was "wild speculation" and "simply ridiculous" to suggest that Justice Alito was pledging his votes on the court.

"He simply wrote asking me to thank those who prayed for strength and wisdom during the past few months," Dr. Dobson said

While the firestorm goes forward about the letter, if it was appropriate, or inappropriate, and what if anything Alito meant by it, what is missed in all the commentary so far is that Alito expresseed a desire to meet with Dobson. Even if it is true that he sent out a number of thank you letters and that it was routine, does he also want to meet with these supporters?  And if so, what will these meetings be about?

It is the expression of the desire to meet that makes this seem to me, much more than a routine thank you note. The appearance from where I sit is that Alito is not bothering to make any pretense of independence; and that he is allowing Dobson to trade on the relationship.

"Justice Alito should follow the commands of the Constitution, not the orders of Dobson and the Religious Right," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

I think Lynn got it right. But I am sure Alito hasn't sent Lynn any notes about wanting to meet.

who even now, seek to argue that the religious right is not very important; not very powerful.

I wonder what they say to this?  Much ado about nothing?  

by Frederick Clarkson on Thu Mar 02, 2006 at 01:20:04 AM EST

It seems that Rev. Lynn's comments have ruffled some feathers at the Family Research Council.

Here is Tony Perkins' rebuttal from the FRC e-news on 3/2/06:

Knocking Justice Alito's Thank You to Dr. Dobson

"Grossly inappropriate," fumes Americans United's Barry Lynn. He's referring to a letter that newly confirmed Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr., sent to my friend and colleague, Dr. Jim Dobson. Justice Alito thanked Dr. Dobson and his radio listeners for their prayers during his recent confirmation process, comments that were very similar to those he made at the White House swearing-in ceremony that I attended. He humbly thanked those who had prayed for him and his family and promised to do all he could to live up to the trust that had been placed in him. Barry Lynn says the note "suggests that Alito is carrying out a right-wing agenda instead of being a justice for all." It would be fascinating to hear Barry Lynn's take on President Washington's thank you letter to the Hebrew Congregation at Newport. Or what about President Jefferson's thank you letter to the Danbury Baptists? That was the letter in which Jefferson talked of the "wall of separation between church and state"--but it was addressed to Baptists who had prayed for him! Beneath the absurdity of Lynn's response is a subtle and ongoing effort to marginalize Christian participation in government.


by EmilyWynn8 on Fri Mar 03, 2006 at 02:03:16 PM EST

Lynn in his statement points out that Alito is acting like a polititian, not a justice.

The examples that the FRC point to are, umm, polititians elected to office. This has nothing to do with prayer or religion, per se. It has to do with pandering to a political constituency by a justice of the court, that is supposed to be above politics. That's why we have lifetime appointments for federal judges, you know, the same people the FRC calls "judicial tyrants."

by Frederick Clarkson on Fri Mar 03, 2006 at 03:55:38 PM EST

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