Check this out.
Last Thursday, Tony Perkins sent out a Family Research Council "Washington Update
", as he does most days, and, as it often does, it included two items. The first was a lofty statement about how religious convictions shouldn't alone be considered as a reason to oppose or
to endorse any particular political player. He took issue with complaints about Harriet Miers's evangelical Christianity, but he also warned his base not to favor her merely on that basis.
The same must be said now for advocacy of Harriet Miers. We are the last people on earth to object to the news that she is a committed Christian; the Good News is, above all, great news for her. And we reiterate, this fact about her is neither grounds for objection nor a fit object for examination by the Senate. By the same token, this fact is not grounds for certifying her to us or to the public. It's not just that religious conviction is an unreliable indicator of a judicial philosophy (though it clearly is), it's that inferences drawn from an individual's religious affiliation have no place in decisions to nominate or confirm a judicial appointee.
That all sounds pretty much exactly right to me. I read this piece and had a rare moment when I thought that Mr. Perkins had really had something sensible to say. Then I read the very next piece, which immediately followed that one in the same email:
Lynn charged the President with having a "religious litmus test." Why? Because the President dared to say back in 2002 that he would select judges who understand "that our rights are derived from God." Horrors! Imagine that. Why, Bush believes that Jefferson was right when he wrote in the Declaration of Independence that we are "endowed by [our] Creator with certain inalienable rights."
The man immediately turned around and wrote about how it's ok to only endorse candidates who believe that we wouldn't have rights if God didn't give them to us. I have no idea how to make sense of this. It's not just that he obviously didn't mean what he said in his first claim; it's that he doesn't even seem to care how inconsistent he looks.
I'm certainly not going to agree with everything Perkins says here (particularly the assumption that Jefferson's deistic belief in a creator giving rights amounts to religion), but I'm having trouble seeing the inconsistency. I see three propositions he endorses:ReplyDelete
1. A nominee's religious views are not sufficient grounds for supporting the nominee.
2. A nominee's religious views are not sufficient grounds for rejecting the nominee.
3. It's not wrong for a president to have a litmus test that takes a certain religious view as a necessary condition for nomination.
As far as I can tell, those three propositions are fully consistent. Saying something is not a sufficient condition for rejection is consistent with saying it's not sufficient for support either. Saying it's not sufficient for support is consistent with saying it's still necessary for support. Certainly saying it's not sufficient for either is consistent with saying it's ok to believe that it's necessary for support. I'm just not seeing the contradiction.
On the most plausible reading, the claims go much further than a denial of necessary or sufficient conditions. Perkins says that religion isReplyDelete
neither grounds for objection nor a fit object for examination by the Senate. By the same token, this fact is not grounds for certifying her to us or to the public.
If he's saying only that her religion doesn't automatically qualify or disqualify her, then he's saying practically nothing at all. He says it's not a fit object for examination, because it's irrelevant.
He's more explicit slightly later. Religious considerations
have no place in decisions to nominate or confirm a judicial appointee.
So here's the inconsistency I see:
(1) It is inappropriate to take religion into consideration when considering whether someone should be a Supreme Court Justice.
(2) It is acceptable for President Bush to have a religious litmus-test if the criterion is that he will only nominate judges who believe that our rights come from God.
Does the idea that, "No religious Test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States" mean anything to anyone these days or am I just being 'old' school?ReplyDelete
There is no evidence publicly available that Miers is among, say, the 1000 best candidates for a lifetime appointment. I don't know how to calculate the odds exactly, but when I think about the odds that someone could be in this group with no public evidence to justify thinking this individual is in this group, I think the odds are really, really, [insert obnoxious number of 'really's] .... low. I'm then assured that she has some religious views. Oh, that's nice. Apparently not obviously qualified people can count having religious views as a qualification. Interesting. I'm tempted to say that even if Bush didn't have a litmus test that didn't exclude atheists, agnostics, Muslims, or Jews, treating evangelical as a condition that would supplant alternative qualifications members of alternative groups would have had to earn in order to be considered for the nomination is sufficiently against the spirit of the condition to violate it.
It's funny: that second paragraph sounds preposterous if you make it "Because the President dared to say back in 2002 that he would only select judges who understand 'that our rights are derived from God.'"ReplyDelete
And yet, that sentence means the same thing as the original.
The other thing that occurred to me is that Perkins thinks it's wrong for senators to let it affect their vote, but he thinks it's ok for the president to let it affect his choice of who to nominate. That's consistent if he can motivate why it would be ok for the president but not ok for the Senate. The most reasonable explanation of the difference is that he thinks, as I do, that the senators' job is to determine if the nominee is qualified and no more, and religion should play no part in that. The president, on the other hand, can have all manner of considerations for why he would prefer one person rather than another, and political considerations can enter into that. One consideration that Perkins and Bush both seem to think would be included is whether the person believes in what theists might call real rights, i.e. rights given by God, as opposed to whatever things we might concoct on our own and call rights. A lot of theists think this way (me included), and I don't think it's immoral to want Supreme Court nominees to have a similar philosophical view. I wouldn't myself require it, but I don't think it's immoral to want it.ReplyDelete