- - Sunday, July 8, 2018


George Washington, who saw at first hand the limitations of surmise, conjecture and theory, nailed it. “Reason and experience,” he said, “both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

This has always been the settled belief in the cathedrals and temples of the City on the Hill, and the religious underpinning of the republic has rarely been questioned over the life of the republic, even by those like Jefferson and Lincoln who were not religious but respectful and even deferential to those who were.

Religion, if not necessarily authentic religious faith, gives the contentious something to argue and fight about. That’s sometimes ugly but nothing wicked about that. Contentious debate is a strength, not a weakness. But some of the most ardent pursuers of civility — those trying not to be rude toward those who disagree with them — occasionally lapse into fits of bigotry and the narrowing of a small mind.

Dianne Feinstein, who has to work at being a thoughtful and reasonable U.S. senator for California and still survive in the hothouse of hysteria that California has become, suffered such a lapse in the discussion of President Trump’s appointments to the federal district courts and his nominees to the U.S. courts of appeal. She forgot, if just for the moment, that she was the thoughtful lady among the Democrats. If you can’t trust a lady to be tolerant and responsible, then who?

She couldn’t escape reminders of her rough treatment of Amy Coney Barrett last year when Mrs. Barrett was nominated for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in Chicago. Mrs. Barrett is a devout Roman Catholic, the mother of seven children (including two adopted black children from Haiti), and who, after less than a year on the Court of Appeals, was under consideration for the Supreme Court. It was apparently the details of how Mrs. Barrett seemed to be the perfect Republican candidate that pushed the senator over the edge. It is Mrs. Barrett’s faith that rankles the senator most.

Religion, the senator said, was “it’s own dogma,” and that gave irreligious Democrats “an uncomfortable feeling.” Sen. Charles Schumer, the leader of the minority Democrats in the Senate, said he was afraid that Mrs. Barrett would be an “activist” judge. Well, how can a judge, any judge, be otherwise? A judge by definition “acts” to settle questions, becoming “controversial” by the very act.

“The dogma lives loudly within you,” the senator had told Mrs. Barrett, “and that’s of concern when you come to big issues that people have fought for years.” Suggesting a religious test for office, which is expressly forbidden by the Constitution, was particularly puzzling because the senator, a Jew, must be aware that many Jews have suffered similar discrimination, and worse, to this day.

Democrats, mindful that the feminists have become a major part of their electoral base, are determined to protect abortion above all — above national security, above the economy, above immigration, above crime — and a Catholic is particularly suspect by Democrats, though the major Protestant denominations are predominantly pro-life, too (and for the first time have no representation on the Supreme Court). Mrs. Barrett has said, however, that she thinks it “very unlikely” that Roe v. Wade would be overturned, and that “the fundamental element, that the woman has a right to choose abortion, will stand.” Even that was not enough for the feminist red-hots.

We’re going to need all the tolerance we can find on the public square in pursuit of the right justices for the U.S. Supreme Court. Several vacancies loom large on the horizon. No one, not even an eminent justice, can avoid slipping into old age, and several of the justices are already deep into what we euphemistically call “the golden years.”

The contentiousness of the search for a replacement for Anthony Kennedy is but a sample of the anger, rage and resentment of the argument to come. The bile will runneth over, so get your boots on.

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