Today, we have news that Bill Frist, the Senate Majority Leader, has joined with several Protestant evangelicals for a special teleconference. This will happen on what is labeled "Justice Sunday", and the stated purpose of this teleconference is to call the Democrats who have filibustered ten of Bush's judicial nominees as being against people of faith.
The organizer of this teleconference is Mr. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. In a message on their web site, he writes:
"A day of decision is upon us. Whether it was the legalization of abortion, the banning of school prayer, the expulsion of the 10 Commandments from public spaces, or the starvation of Terri Schiavo, decisions by the courts have not only changed our nation's course, but even led to the taking of human lives. As the liberal, anti-Christian dogma of the left has been repudiated in almost every recent election, the courts have become the last great bastion for liberalism.For years activist courts, aided by liberal interest groups like the ACLU, have been quietly working under the veil of the judiciary, like thieves in the night, to rob us of our Christian heritage and our religious freedoms. Federal judges have systematically grabbed power, usurping the constitutional authority that resides in the other two branches of government and, ultimately, in the American people."
Bill Frist apparently thinks this rhetoric is okay and fine. He doesn't worry that a judicial jihad call could possibly be a bad thing. This is exactly the kind of man you want in charge of the Senate, isn't it?
Let's look at these claims voiced by Mr. Perkins.
"Legalization of abortion" - okay, so you feel Roe v. Wade was wrong, apparently. Does this mean you want no abortions at all?
"Banning of school prayer" - obviously, Mr. Perkins prefers hyperbole to fact. You are allowed to pray in school - pop tests have proven this time and again. What can't happen is a teacher-led prayer or praying that causes a disruption to the class. Now, I will admit that some schools have pushed the definition of disruption to an extreme, but I will also state that many pro-prayer people are pushing to the opposite extreme by demanding teacher-led prayer. (I wonder if they'd compromise - I'll allow school prayer to be teacher-led as long as it's a prayer to Allah. Or do you think that maybe they're pushing for just Christian prayers? Couldn't be that, could it?)
"the expulsion of the Ten Commandments from public places" - I think he would mean Alabama's case mainly, since the others are still in litigation. I can state with certainty that in Alabama the Ten Commandments monument - Roy Moore's two ton ego trip - was removed after several court orders, and even the lawyer representing the Bush Administration in other Ten Commandment cases in Texas and Kentucky says his display "probably does cross the constitutional line." What you don't hear is that Governor Bob Riley later unveiled an exhibit at the Capitol that also had the Ten Commandments with the Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights, making it not just a religious homage. The only protest about this display came from Roy Moore himself, who claims that to surround the Ten Commandments w/other documents of law secularizes it. (At least he's upfront about his agenda.) But in this case, not all displays have been expelled. So, again, hyperbole ho!
"starvation of Terri Schiavo" - as stated in a previous entry, the law was followed. If Mr. Perkins has a problem with the law, he should be blaming the legislature who passed said law instead of the judges who ruled in accordance with it. Of course, that would nullify the political taint here.
So here we have the unholy combination of religious froth with political power seeking. Not done by a fringe group, but by the major people in the Republican party itself. It's moving more and more towards an actual theocratic party, and this has got to be disturbing to some people in the Republican party itself. The Republicans are increasingly showing themselves to have all the characteristics of a person driven by religious mania to proselytize people on the street to the point of harassment - and just a small step away from attacking those people who don't agree with their particular brand of fervor. It's a small step from being persuaded you're right to believing that everyone who doesn't agree with you is wrong, and an even smaller step from there to demonizing the people who don't agree with you. "Democrats are against people of faith" has to be one of those steps. There are some questions about some of the nominees that aren't religious - for example, Alberto Gonzales himself has criticized some of Priscilla Owen's opinions, calling them "activist". (This will surely become the "L word" for judges.) In some cases, there are questions about if their strong religious views would affect them in their rulings and actions - for example, Richard Pryor (who got a recess appointment to a judgeship) assisted Roy Moore in his Ten Commandments case by appointing private lawyers to help him for as long as he could before being forced to order the removal. On the one hand, that does show Pryor will follow the law - on the other hand, it also shows that if he doesn't agree with the law, he won't until all avenues of argument has been exhausted. I would call this something that needs to be explored, not because I'm anti-religion, but because it's a legitimate question. (The links above are to a site that is against most of Bush's appointees, but I believe the facts are still correct.)
Just because you wonder if people can follow the law/do their job when their religious views are against it in no way makes you a priori against people of faith. Consider the pharmacists who are refusing to fill prescriptions if it goes against their beliefs - does protesting against their acts make you anti-religious, or pro-them doing the job they were hired to do? I know that if I was told a person wouldn't fill one of my prescriptions because it conflicted with their beliefs, I would recommend they get another job quickly AND that they fill the prescription anyway - their beliefs aren't mine and I shouldn't be held to them. Would that make me against people of faith?
This is just the latest step in the Republicans becoming a party that wants to use religion in its politics, or even for its politics, and is getting closer to labeling people who don't agree anti-religious even if religion is only a peripheral issue. They're moving away from the podium and towards an altar. I think it's a dangerous step, and wonder how many other Republicans feel this way as well.