Monday, January 9, 2006

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Conservatives rallied in defense of religious liberty and in favor of reforming the federal courts on the eve of Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr.

The evening rally, dubbed “Justice Sunday III,” was held in the state where Judge Alito sits on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Sen. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican, told the gathering that liberal judges are “destroying traditional morality, creating a new moral code and prohibiting any dissent.”

“The only way to restore this republic our founders envisioned is to elevate honorable jurists like Samuel Alito,” Mr. Santorum said. “Unfortunately, the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee seem poised to drag these hearings into the gutter so they can continue their far left judicial activism on the Supreme Court.”

The Rev. Jerry Falwell and Focus on the Family founder James Dobson also attended the event.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, which organized the event, said the event was a response to rulings such as last year’s 5-4 Supreme Court decision prohibiting a display of the Ten Commandments in Kentucky, and a federal judge’s declaration that reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools is unconstitutional.

“The demand by judges that a Christian check his or her faith at the door before entering the public realm is a tyrannical use of judicial power, and it must cease,” Mr. Perkins said at a press conference before the event.

Liberal groups and some religious leaders organized a protest at the rally, maintaining that the sponsors of “Justice Sunday” back a dangerous mixing of church and state and an agenda that threatens civil rights.

The Rev. Herbert Lusk, pastor of Greater Exodus Baptist Church, where “Justice Sunday III” was held, drew the ire of some activists when he endorsed President Bush during the 2000 Republican National Convention. The church’s charitable arm was awarded nearly $1 million in federal money in 2002 to help low-income Philadelphians with mortgages. Mr. Bush spoke at the church in 2004.

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