- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 6, 2003

Sen. Orrin Hatch, Utah Republican, sent shock waves through the liberal culture when he said, “the left is trying to enforce an anti-religious litmus test” against judicial “nominees who openly adhere to Catholic and Baptist doctrines.”

How dare he accuse them of doing what they are doing? After all, correctly describing a deplorable Democratic tactic is tantamount to dirty campaigning, even McCarthyism.

The New York Times, the Gray Matriarch of the Democratic propaganda machine, was outraged at the suggestion of anti-Christian prejudice. “This is a false, cynical and divisive charge,” opined the Times, apparently oblivious to liberalism’s currently raging war against Christianity.

Human Events interviewed a number of senators about the validity of Mr. Hatch’s charge. Not surprisingly, most Republican senators agreed and Democrats disagreed.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, Washington Democrat, responded, “I think the Republicans are the people who are raising questions about people’s religion.” In other words, if Democrats have been crafty enough not to mention the nominee’s religious affiliation, his affiliation must not be a factor.

Did our Democratic friends hold themselves to the same standard when then-Sen. John Ashcroft opposed the nomination of Missouri Supreme Court Justice Ronnie White to the federal bench? Had they done so, they wouldn’t have been able to falsely accuse Mr. Ashcroft of racism (Justice White is black), because Mr. Ashcroft certainly never invoked race as a factor. The allegation was absurd on its face, but that didn’t keep the race-baiters from spewing their venom.

Mr. Hatch’s charge is different. Democrats have opposed judicial nominees precisely because they are pro-life Christians. But Mr. Hatch didn’t go far enough. It’s not just believing Catholics and believing Baptists who liberals deem unqualified for the bench. It’s anyone with a strong Christian worldview — anyone whose Christian moral beliefs inform his political policy preferences — in short, Christian conservatives.

And they haven’t limited their assault to the judicial branch. Executive appointees, such as Dr. David Hager (to the Food and Drug Administration) and Jerry Tacker (to the presidential AIDS panel), have also been barred from service because of their Christian beliefs.

You don’t have to be a fire-breathing fundamentalist to run afoul of the anti-Christian litmus test. Just oppose a woman’s unqualified right to terminate her own pregnancy, and you’re as unfit for the federal bench as an illegal alien with a smoking gun (no offense intended to illegal aliens without smoking guns).

Remember when President Bush nominated J. Leon Holmes to the U.S. District Court? Mr. Holmes’ academic credentials were impeccable — he received a Ph.D. in political science from Duke University and graduated first in his law school class. He had a stellar legal career and was heartily endorsed by the American Bar Association.

But he was a devout Catholic and an outspoken pro-life advocate. For this he earned the unmitigated wrath of Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer of New York, Dianne Feinstein of California and Dick Durbin of Illinois. Mr. Schumer said of Mr. Holmes, “This man is an embarrassment to be nominated. … This guy is so far off the deep end. … I do not know why this man was nominated. What he thinks is so bad.”

Professor Michael McConnell also ran into the liberal buzz saw because of his opposition to abortion, despite the judgment of Harvard’s Lawrence Tribe that he was “likely to display an ideal judicial temperament,” and Harvard’s Elena Kagan that “there is no part of Michael that is activist or extremist.” Through some unexplained miracle, Mr. McConnell was confirmed.

But, as Human Events points out, Democrats have tried to block a number of other Catholic nominees — Miguel Estrada, Carolyn Kuhl, Bill Pryor — and Southern Christians Charles Pickering and Priscilla Owen. In case after case, the Christian nominee’s legal competence and judicial temperament were insufficient to overcome disqualifying religious views.

It also doesn’t matter if the judicial nominee pledges to follow Supreme Court precedent (horrendously wrong as it is) on the abortion issue. His personal beliefs against a woman’s abortion rights disqualify him as morally unfit.

Why? Because the ends-justify-the-means Senate Democrats project their own disdain for judicial restraint onto originalist appointees. They refuse to believe conservative judges would follow a precedent they disagree with, because they know most liberal judges won’t.

The judicial appointment process has become a disgrace. Democrats have used every trick to thwart the president’s appointment power. If President Bush is one-fourth as savvy at communicating this to voters as he has been at raising campaign funds and handling his duties as commander in chief, Republicans just might end up with the veto-proof majority they need to stop this foolishness and begin to restore some sanity to the federal bench.

David Limbaugh is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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