Full Court Press: Despite Public Opposition, Religious Right Vows To Continue Bashing Judges

April 29th, 2005
By Jeremy Leaming
Religion in Public Life, Religious Right Research

The Religious Right won’t budge from its persecution complex, which is encapsulated in an increasingly shrill campaign charging Senate Democrats with oppressing Christians by filibustering some of the Bush administration’s judicial nominees.

Earlier this week one of the participants in the April 24 judge-bashing event at a Kentucky mega-church boasted to a reporter that the group had nothing to be ashamed of.

“We’re not gonna shut up and be little altar boys,” William Donohue, the acerbic leader of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Liberties, told a Rocky Mountain News reporter.

The Colorado newspaper was especially interested in the “Justice Sunday: Stop the Filibuster Against People of Faith,” because James Dobson, head of the Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council (FRC), its political arm helped coordinate it. Dobson and FRC’s leader Tony Perkins were as bombastic as Donohue, railing against a string of federal court decisions, such as Roe v. Wade , as proof that the judiciary has had it in for religious Americans for a long time.

Dobson said during the event, which was broadcast over Christian television stations, radio and web sites, that “Five black-robed justices on the Supreme Court can tell us how it’s gonna be. They’re not gods. They don’t do everything right … For 43 years, the court has been on a campaign to limit religious liberty.”

The bombast from Dobson, Perkins and Donohue, among other Religious Right leaders has caught the nation’s attention, and some polls suggest not in a good way. For starters recent polling suggests an overwhelming number of Americans do not want to see the Senate dump the filibuster to make it easier for the majority party to rubber-stamp the president’s judicial picks.

Also during last night’s prime time press conference, President George W. Bush distanced himself from the Religious Right’s rhetoric. A CBSNews correspondent asked the president whether he agreed with Perkin’s claim that “judicial filibusters are an attack against people of faith.”

“I just don’t agree with it,” responded Bush. “No,” the president continued, “I think people oppose my nominees because of judicial philosophy.”

The correspondent then asked what Bush “thinks of the ways faith is being used in our political debates … .”

“Well,” Bush said, “I can only speak to myself. And I’m mindful that people of political office should not say to somebody you’re not equally American if you don’t happen to agree with my view of religion.”

The president, nonetheless, would not retract support of his judicial nominees, which includes a growing number of extremists. Among them, California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown who has publicly attacked federal court precedent supporting church-state separation and recently claimed that the nation was in a “war” over religious values, and former Attorney Alabama Attorney General William Pryor, who also has a long record of trying to undermine the First Amendment principle of church-state separation.

Dobson and his protege Perkins, have also found themselves in unflattering media light this week. An April 26 article from The Nation reported that Perkins four years ago addressed the Louisiana Chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), “America’s premier white supremacist organization …,” and in 1996 paid former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke more than $80,000 for his mailing list. At the time, the magazine reports, Perkins was campaign manager for a right-wing candidate to the U.S. Senate.

Several Colorado newspapers have reported on an escalating war of words between Dobson and the state’s junior U.S. Senator Ken Salazar. Dobson’s political action committee, Focus on the Family Action, has purchased television, newspaper and radio advertising in a number states targeting senators, including Salazar, for not supporting an end to the filibuster. Salazar’s wife has even had her own business, a Dairy Queen franchise, picketed by Religious Right activists. Salazar has called Dobson’s actions “unchristian, meaning self-serving and selfish.”

Dobson and Perkins remain unfazed, which should not be surprising. They are convinced that, regardless of polling, they are on a mission to save the nation. The simple truth, however, is that the nation needs to be saved from the likes of Dobson and Perkins. They are today’s nasty religious politicos driven to push their rigid belief system on as many Americans as possible. Their tactics are heavy-handed; their rhetoric ridiculously over-blown and eventually, with Americans increasingly paying attention, will grow tired.

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