Justice Sunday, the relgious left, and Senator Frist

Joseph Knippenberg at No Left Turns responds to the efforts of the religious left, and of Washington Post columnist Colbert King, to demonize Senator Frist and the Family Research Council over the Justice Sunday event, which will highlight the attempt of liberal Democrats to block judicial nominees based in part on the deeply held religious beliefs of the nominees. In their desire to write easy, latitudinarian-sounding rhetoric, the interfaith clergy and King seem to have lost the thread. Indeed, C. Welton Gaddy of the Interfaith Alliance concedes the point that the liberals for whom he fronts want to deny:

With a religious conscience as enflamed as the conscience of anybody in the religious right, I oppose the election [sic] of judges who will, in the name of religion, make decisions that politicize religion and blunt the vitality as well as compromise the integrity of the rich religious community in this nation.

The Democrats claim that religion has nothing to do with their opposition to nominees like William Pryor. But Gaddy, based on no evidence that any of judges in question engage in the conduct he describes, apparently opposes them precisely on religious grounds.
Key Democrats do too, though not as crudely. Senator Schumer, the Democrats’ point man on the nominees, says that Pryor’s deeply held religious views will prevent him from doing what he has promised to do (and has done in the past, notably in the Ten Commandments case), namely follow the law when it conflicts with his views. This would be the equivalent of assuming that a feminist nominee, or a gay one, would refuse to follow the law when it conflicts with his or her views as a feminist or gay-rights sympathizer. This runs counter to the way judicial nominees have always been evaluated — they have always been judged based on their actions, not their status. Schumer’s argument effectively sets up a religious bar — Catholics (for example) who strongly believe what their church teaches need not apply. Thus, opposing what Schumer and his fellow Democrats are attempting to accomplish does not constitute playing offense — trying to tilt the judiciary in favor of a religious agenda. Rather, it amounts to playing defense — trying to prevent a system that excludes passionate people on one side of the spectrum but not the other.
King’s column moves beyond the issue of judicial confirmations to make a general claim that the Christian right is trying “to hijack religion.” According to King, “invoking Christianity as an instrument to advance a political agenda or to vanquish an opponent is divisive, demagogic and beyond the pale in in American politics.” But this is simply Chuck Schumer style preemption on a grander scale. Feminists, gay activists, and others on the left can invoke their belief system to advance a political agenda, but for fundamentalist Christians to do so is “beyond the pale” (the in-cliche at the Washington Post). But why is it illegitimate for certain kinds of Christians, and those Christians only, to denounce outcomes on the grounds that they are contrary to their deeply held beliefs?
When one considers the implications of the arguments of Schumer, Gaddy, and King, it becomes clear that Senator Frist will be exactly where he should be on Justice Sunday.
JOHN adds: “Interfaith Alliance,” indeed. If you want a real interfaith alliance, you need go no farther than this site. I got a kick out of the fact that recently we were all invited to a “Christian bloggers’ conference.” It’s an understandable mistake, if they weren’t paying close attention, since Deacon and the Trunk are two of the most vigorous and effective defenders of Christians on the web.


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