- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 6, 2004

The Christian Coalition of Georgia, for the first time in that state, reports the Associated Press, is confronting candidates for the Georgia Supreme Court and the Georgia Court of Appeals with a quiz that could determine whether they’ll be elected. The queries are about abortion, prayer in schools and gay rights.

I expect the Christian Coalition there has been paying attention to the ideological hurdles to which U.S. Senate Democrats have been subjecting the president’s nominees to the federal Circuit Court of Appeals. These attempts in the Senate to force nominees to tell how they will vote on acutely controversial issues go beyond mere quizzes.

The Democrats — led by theblusteringSen. Charles Schumer of New York and his general on the floor, Sen. Thomas Daschle of South Dakota — filibuster candidates who barely get out of committee on party-line votes, but are then denied being brought before the Senate majority for an up-or-down vote, contrary to the Constitution (the “advice and consent of the Senate” — meaning the entire Senate — Article II, Section 2 of the document).

But the Georgia Christian Coalition is playing the same obstructive game, posing questions that are the mirror image of those wielded by Senate Democrats. For example: Do judicial nominees in Georgia agree or disagree that abortion is a constitutional right?

A question titled “homosexual conduct” seeks to probe whether the candidate agrees with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2003 decision striking down a Texas law that criminalized sodomy. Candidates also are being asked about the SupremeCourt’sruling against prayer in the schools.

The answers, notes the Associated Press, “will be compiled (and) sent to 250,000 homes, with 500,000 additional copies going to churches.” The coalition’s familiar voter guides, adds the AP, “are thought to be influential, with many state lawmakers keeping the Christian Coalition in mind when voting earlier this spring on a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.”

Critics of these quizzes of potential judges in Georgia claim they are litmus tests to banish liberals from the bench. In Washington, Mr. Schumer and his Democraticcolleagues deny that their questions on judicial philosophy are litmus tests. But woe unto a Bush nominee who is pro-life.

Senate Judiciary Committee member Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, has pledged publicly never to vote for anyone who would endanger Roe v. Wade. And should John Kerry move into the White House, he, too, has said — until he changes his mind again — that he would not nominate a pro-lifer.

Meanwhile, the Georgia Christian Coalition solemnly avers that its quizzes are nonpartisan, an eminently fair way for voters to know more about judicial nominees. The Senate Democrats have said the same disingenuous thing, but they no longer emphasize that their ideological inquisitions are nonpartisan. (After all, why give Jay Leno his biggest laugh line of the night?)

Indeed, Senate Democrats now are celebrating their thumpingly partisan victory in a deal with the timorous Senate Republican leadership and the president. As Mr. Schumer accurately puts it, “the White House waved the white flag” when the president agreed, for the remainder of his term, not to make any more appointments while Congress was in recess of nominees filibustered by Democrats. In return, the Democrats agreed not to block 25 nominees who would have otherwise sailed through if the playing field were level. Only five of the escapees are to be the more influential federal appellate judges.

Senate Republican leader William Frist of Tennessee claims that this coerced deal is “fair and it’s balanced.” Really? Twenty-five “hostages” have been freed, but the Democrats have not in any way abandoned their filibuster bludgeon in the next Senate if they have the votes.

As for the Georgia Christian Coalitionemulatingthe Schumer Raiders, Rich Reeves — director of the Judicial Education Office at the University of Georgia, where state judges are trained — said of the judicial nominees answering the Coalition’s quiz: “To make any statement that would be commitment to rule (on the bench) in any way would be a violation of our judicial code.”

I expect the Christian Coalition would agree, while stifling smiles. It gets harder for me to understand why any clearly qualified judicial nominee would subject himself or herself to this demeaning gauntlet in Georgia or Washington.

I, of course, though pro-labor, pro-civil rights and a civil libertarian, would not get past the current liberal Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee because I’m also pro-life.

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