OP-EDS

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November 11, 2003

Christian justices face religious discrimination

Imagine the reaction if I, as a business owner, denied jobs to blacks, Hispanics, or women simply because they were black, Hispanic, or women. Moreover, imagine the outcry if I were a government official, and I denied government jobs to blacks, Hispanics, or women based not on problems with personal character or past experience, but instead because of worries that the candidate was "too black" and this quality would cloud his or her decision-making abilities. Sounds outrageous, huh?

Ironically, this is precisely what Senate Democrats, the self-proclaimed vanguards of civil liberties, have been doing for the past three years. In the present Republican-controlled Senate, an illegitimate cabal spearheaded by Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Ted Kennedy (D-MA) has made it all but impossible for conservative Christians to ascend to federal judgeships. Not only are Schumer and his gang voting against these candidates, but also they are dangerously employing the little-used right to filibuster to prevent the potential judges from even receiving a fair hearing in committee.

While the threatened filibusters are ridiculous enough, they are an entire issue altogether. What I am more incensed about is the clearly visible "religion bias" employed by Schumer and his posse. This issue was touched upon in a recent Viewpoints column by M. Yasser Ghanchi, in which the author argued that judicial candidates such as Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor should not be elected because of their religious views. "If people like Pryor become federal judges, what will prevent Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Jews, Muslims, and Christians whose religious views differ from those of people like Pryor from becoming second-class citizens?" Ghanchi asked.

To Ghanchi and others sharing his views, I ask a question back: why should we assume that Pryor will alienate all religious groups but his simply because he is of one religion? It is as valid to question whether a white judge would ignore blacks, or whether a male judge might ignore women's issues. The Senate Democrats don't seem to have a problem with these questions, and rightfully so. Judges should be selected based on their qualifications and abilities, not because they fall into a certain group or category.

Senate Democrats and their lobbyist supporters circumvent this dictum by arguing that the religious views of Pryor and similar candidates cloud their impartial decision-making process. "Bill Pryor has spent his political career trying to undermine church-state separation and showing contempt for religious pluralism," said Barry Lynn, the executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a group that is leading the opposition to Pryor's nomination. This summer, Schumer himself said that Pryor's beliefs "are so well known, so deeply held that it's very hard to believe that they're not going to influence him on the bench." But do the above politically charged opinions carry any weight?

The answer is certainly no. Sure, Pryor sided with Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore in the infamous Ten Commandments debate, but when Moore was ordered to remove the monument by a district judge, Pryor vowed to abide by the court decision. In a separate instance, the pro-life Pryor refused to enforce an Alabama partial birth abortion ban because the Supreme Court had struck down a similar law earlier as unconstitutional. These two examples clearly show that although Pryor has religious convictions, these convictions did not interfere with his impartiality during two of Alabama's most religiously and politically charged debates.

Denying even hearings to Bill Pryor and similar judicial candidates because of fears that their religion will interfere with their duty is absurd, not supported by facts, and even unconstitutional, as Article VI of the Constitution states that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." This "religious test" is clearly being employed by Schumer, Kennedy, and their headhunting, left-wing mob. Instead of focusing on qualifications, experience, and empirical facts, this core of radical Democrats, which reduces nearly every political issue to abortion and separation of church and state, is discriminating against Pryor and other Christian candidates. In effect, this group is preventing these candidates from practicing their faith and holding a federal judgeship. Where is the ACLU when it is really needed? Oh, wait.