Thursday, April 21, 2005

Setting the Record Straight on "Justice Sunday"

This Sunday evening the Senate Majority Leader, Republican Bill Frist, will participate in a telecast designed to reach millions of people through their churches. The telecast, prepared by the Family Research Council, is designed to show that Democrats are blocking religious judicial nominees because they are "against people of faith."

I agree with 42 that this tactic is simply disgusting on its face. With analysis of the facts, though, the charge that Democrats have blocked "people of faith" can be shown - not only disgusting - but also a flat out lie.

If the Democrats have been blocking "people of faith," then one would expect few, if any, of the judges approved by the Senate under the Bush administration to be religious people. So let's test this hypothesis. For the purposes of brevity, I'll confine my analysis to the most singificant appointments: Court of Appeals judges (who sit just below the United States Supreme Court on the judicial hierarchy). There have been 34 of these powerful jurists confirmed by the Senate - i.e., not blocked by the Democrats - under Bush's tenure. Are any of them "people of faith"?


Through two websites -- the Almanac of the Federal Judiciary and Courting Influence -- I have been able to obtain the Senate Biographical Questionnaires filed by 32 of these 34 judges pending their confirmation. 18 of the confirmed 32 judges disclosed public ties to religious groups. For many, faith has clearly played a critical role in their lives. They are listed in alphabetical order:

(1) Judge Carlos Bea, Ninth Circuit COA. Judge Bea is a Catholic who served on the Parish and Advisory Councils of his Church, St. Vincent de Paul in San Francisco from 1990 to 1996.

(2) Judge William Benton, Eighth Circuit COA: Judge Benton has been a Deacon and trustee of the First Baptist Church of Jefferson City, MO since 1990. He is also a member of the Missouri Baptist Convention’s Committee on Continuing Review (1993-96 and 2003 – present).

(3) Judge Jay Scott, Ninth Circuit COA: Judge Scott is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

(4) Judge Richard Clifton, Ninth Circuit COA: Judge Clifton described himself as “personally active” in his local United Church of Christ – the Central Union Church.

(5) Judge Steven Colloton, Eighth Circuit COA: Judge Colloton is not only a member of the St. Augustine Catholic Church in Des Moines Iowa -- he also sings in the choir and is a “Perpetual Adoration worshipper.”

(6) Judge Julia Gibbons, Sixth Circuit COA: Judge Gibbons is an Elder in the Idlewild Presbyterian Church.

(7) Judge Roger Gregory, Fourth Circuit COA: Judge Gregory has served on the Board of Directors of the Christian Children’s fund since 1997 and has been Vice Chair of the organization since 1999.

(8) Judge Raymond Gruender, Eighth Circuit COA: Judge Greunder is a member of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.

(9) Judge Peter Hall, Second Circuit COA: Judge Hall was employed by the Trinity Episcopal Church from 1986-1989 as “Member of Vestry and Senior Warden," and he is a current member of same church.

(10) Judge Harris Hartz, Tenth Circuit COA : Judge Hartz is a member of “Congregation Albert,” New Mexico’s “oldest continuing Reform Jewish Institution.”

(11) Judge Michael McConnell, Tenth Circuit COA: Judge McConnel is a member of the Evangelical Free Church of Salt Lake City. He is also a member of the Christian Legal Society and serves on the National Council of Church’s Committee on Religious Liberty and on the Board of Advisors for the Religious Freedom Reporter. Judge McConnell has published frequently on Religion and the Law and written articles titled: “Believers as Equal Citizens,” “The Problem of Singling out Religion,” “Five Reasons to Reject the Claim that Religious Arguments Should be Excluded from Democratic Deliberation,” “Equal Treatment and Religious Discrimination,” “God is Dead and We Have Killed Him!,” “Taking Religious Freedoms Seriously,” “For the Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” and “Christ, Culture, and Courts.”

(12) Judge Michael Mellow, Eighth Circuit COA: Judge Mellow spent most of his law practice representing religious organizations. In describing his “typical former clients,” Mellow listed four “typical former clients in the non-profit sector,” and all four were religious organizations: (i) Sisters of the Presentation Religious Order, (ii) Archdiocese of Dubuque, (iii) Wahlert High School (a private Christian high School), and (iv) the Church of the Resurrection. Mellow listed only two clients in the profit sector.

(13) Judge Reena Raggi, Second Circuit COA: Judge Raggi stated in her Senate Questionnaire: “Since graduation from college, I have belonged to the parishes of a number of neighborhood Catholic churches. My present parish is Church of the Assumption, Brooklyn, NY."

(14) Judge Brooks Smith, Third Circuit COA: Judge Brooks is a member of the Saint Thomas More Society – “an association of Catholic lawyers organized to strengthen the religious…commitment of its members [and to] encourage[] attorneys and their families, friends and associates to learn about, and from, Saint Thomas More--husband and father, lawyer, statesman, scholar, author, martyr for the Faith, and Patron Saint of government officials and politicians.” Judge Smith was awarded the “Prince Gallitrin Cross" in 2000 by the Bishop of his Church “in recognition of service to the Church of Altoona-Johnstown Diocese.” Smith has served on the Board of Directors of Saint Francis University since 1990 and is a member of a social group called the “Amen Corner.”

(15) Judge Lavenski Smith, Eighth Circuit COA: Judge Smith is a member of the Mission Blvd Baptist Church in Fayetteville, AR. He worked for three years as an Assistant Professor at John Brown University – a private Christian college who’s motto is “Christ Over All.” Finally, Smith served as a mediator through an alternative dispute resolution service called the Northwest Arkansas Christian Justice Center.

(16) Judge Jeffrey Sutton, Sixth Circuit COA: Judge Sutton is a member of Broad Street Presbyterian Church.

(17) Judge Diane Sykes, Seventh Circuit COA: Judge Sykes is a member of St. James Catholic Church. She is also active in the “Dismas Ministry” which she defined as “an archdiocesan ministry that distributes Bibles and serves the spiritual needs of prison inmates.”

(18) Judge Timothy Tymkovich, Tenth Circuit COA: Judge Tymkovich is a member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.

There are several things to remember about these examples of avowedly religious judges confirmed by the Senate. First, since faith is often a private thing, the 18 out of 32 figure is likely to substantially understate the number of "people of faith" who have been approved as Court of Appeals judges. Second, these examples have been drawn only from Court of Appeals judges. There is surely just as significant an amount of religious devotion among the hundreds of District Court judges the Senate has confirmed. Yet, even this small sample shows that the Senate has confirmed (without filabuster) Jews, Catholics and Protestants of all stripes. It shows that the Senate has confirmed Deacons, Elders, choir members, religious apologists, Christian activists and administrators of Christian charities.

It is true that the Democrats have blocked 10 of Bush's judicial nominees. Whether or not this is right, wrong, good strategy or bad strategy, unprecedented or otherwise is not the issue here. My only point is that, whatever the reason these nominees have been blocked, it is not due to their religious convictions. Indeed, even Leftist propaganda sites (PFAW for example) - designed to convince the die-hard Left to oppose nominees - never mention religious connection as a reason. PFAW cites things like inexperience (one nominee has never tried a case) and, of course, conservative "judicial activism" -- hostility to things like employment discrimination laws and the environment. Undoubtedly, some of the blocked judges are "people of faith," but they have been blocked for their politics, not for their religion.

And I think the GOP knows this. The Republic Party is certainly aware of the myriad confirmed religious judges I've discussed above. But they think they can score political points with Christians by scaring them -- by telling them, once again, that they are under attack.

Senator Frist, you should be ashamed of yourself.


At 4:23 PM, Blogger Yudy Vanegas said...

hey what are your sources?


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