Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Religious Test...

Captain Ed over at Captain's Quarters makes a great point about the use of religion in the nominations process of Supreme Court candidates. He notes a Washington Post report that the White House is trying to calm conservatives rightly concerned about Miers' lack of qualifications by noting that her religion would be an appropriate proxy for determining how she would vote. The Post says:

Hecht and other confidants of Miers all pledge that if the Senate confirms her nomination to the Supreme Court, her judicial values will be guided by the law and the Constitution. But they say her personal values have been shaped by her abiding faith in Jesus, and by her membership in the massive red-brick Valley View Christian Church, where she was baptized as an adult, served on the missions committee and taught religious classes....

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino declined to comment on Hecht's recollection yesterday but said President Bush did not ask Miers her personal views on abortion or any other issue that may come before the court. "A nominee who shares the president's approach of judicial restraint would not allow personal views to affect his or her rulings based on the law," Perino said.

Some religious conservatives have expressed deep dissatisfaction with the Miers nomination, grumbling that she has never taken public stands on hot-button social issues. But her friends point to Valley View as evidence that she is cut from conservative cloth. They say she's not a "holy roller" who flaunts her religion on her sleeve but she lives her faith as a born-again Christian...

Captain Ed rightly notes that if conservatives are supposed to be assuaged by Miers' faith, as an appropriate proxy for her voting patterns she would have as a judge, it flatly contradicts the stance taken by the White House in the Roberts nomination. Recall, the Administration rightly noted that questioning Roberts' Catholicism should be off-limits. Everyone was upset that Senator Schumer was proposing what some believed would be an unconstitutional religious test on actual, believing Christians. So why now should conservatives switch gears and suddenly accept Miers because of her commitment to her faith?

I'll admit that Roberts' strong Catholicism was a huge plus in my mind. But his obvious qualifications and his demonstrable wrestling of constitutional issues in his work during the Reagan Administration was a far bigger factor than his religion. And I think that Captain Ed is right that by opening up this subtle hint to conservatives, it also opens the door to Schumer and others like him who would use religion as a cudgel to bash prospective nominees. That cannot be allowed to happen.

None of this would be an issue if Miers was sufficiently qualified. Moreover, the leap of logic the Administration is asking conservatives to make only goes so far. Miers is an evangelical Christian. Fine. MAYBE she'll vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. Maybe, if we make the assumption that her personal religious preferences would be the foundation of her vote instead of any reasoned constitutional analysis of the numerous faults of Roe. But how will she vote on federalism matters? Commerce clause matters? How would we be able to use her religion as a proxy to gague her philosophy of constitutional jurisprudence in matters wholly unrelated to religion? This proxy of her religion really doesn't satisfy at all, if one thinks about it. And it opens the door to a bigger attack from a sinister Senator in the future.

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