We were delighted to hear from E.J. Dionne in response to a piece I wrote about his claim that conservatives are being hypocritical on the question of the role of religion in the judicial confirmation process. This is what Dionne wrote:
Many thanks for linking your readers to two of my columns on religion and the judicial confirmation process. Linking to original sources is one of a many good things about blogs and bloggers. And I hope that at least some of your readers, upon reading both columns, will see that your claim that I am a hypocrite is not warranted by the facts. Far from being in contradiction, the two columns are thoroughly consistent in challenging conservatives on their tendency to use religion when it helps them, but then to denounce anyone else who talks about religion if doing so might challenge a particular conservative objective. In my earlier column, I wrote: Conservatives have long argued, correctly, that religiously inspired voices have a legitimate place in the public square. Limiting religion to the private sphere relegates it to what the theologian David Tracy has called the harmless reservations of the spirit. But if religion is to play a serious role in politics, believers have to accept the obligation to explain themselves publicly.
Conservatives simply cant have it both ways, although I suppose they will continue to try. They cant use religious appeals when doing so suits their purposes but insist on shutting down any further discussion on religion when such conservation becomes awkward for their immediate political purposes. I salute Captain Ed for having the courage to point out this contradiction and the hypocrisy it entails.
Again thank you for calling these columns to the attention of your readers.
E. J. Dionne
We appreciate the thoughtfulness and civility of Dionne’s response. I agree that he was consistent in criticizing conservatives for what he sees as hypocrisy. However, I find a tension between (a) advocating that Senators ask John Roberts how his Catholic faith might affect his judging and (b) criticizing conservatives for speculating about how Harriet Miers’ faith might affect her judging. However, if all Dionne was criticizing was the alleged conservative hypocrisy, not the speculation in itself, then Dionne is correct in saying he was not being hypocritical.