The White House on Thursday accepted Harriet Miers’ withdrawal as a nominee for the Supreme Court, after weeks of attempting to shore up support for her confirmation among religious conservatives.
Miers, 60, President Bush’s White House counsel and long-time adviser, was criticized by the left, who feared she would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that established a woman’s right to abortion, and by religious conservatives concerned about her lack of a clear record opposing abortion.
The White House enlisted religious leaders to vouch for Miers in conference calls.
“Purpose Driven Life” author Rick Warren endorsed her nomination in an Oct. 6 conference call for conservative religious leaders convened by the White House and Republican Party.
Warren, founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., says he doesn’t endorse political candidates. But last November, Warren told 136,000 pastors who receive his “Ministry Toolbox” e-newsletter the 2004 election “will be the most important election Americans have had in 50 years,” because of openings on the U.S. Supreme Court.
Warren listed five “non-negotiable” issues for Bible-believing Christians–abortion, stem-cell research, gay marriage, cloning and euthanasia–and said voters should find out what the candidates believed about those five topics and vote accordingly.
“President Bush and Senator Kerry have VERY different opinions about the type of people who should become Supreme Court justices,” Warren said. “They could not have more opposite views about these matters, and each man will shape the court in very different ways.”
On Oct. 6, Warren participated in a conference call for conservative leaders “strongly supporting” President Bush’s nominee to replace Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
“I think it was for this very moment that we had the last election,” Warren said, according to an audio file obtained and posted on-line by the liberal Web site CrooksAndLiars.com.
“It’s the reason I jumped in and mobilized, you know, our network, because it’s all about the court,” Warren said. “And I think for all of the reasons already mentioned Harriet’s a great choice. I mean she’s a great person, she’s a great woman, she’s a great Christian, she’s a great thinker, and I just throw my support behind her.”
Other religious leaders on the call, moderated by Tim Goeglein of the White House office of public liaison and Ken Mehlman of the Republican National Committee, included Chuck Colson, James Dobson, Jay Sekulow and Richard Land.
All expressed confidence the president is strongly pro-life, knows Miers well and would not recommend her unless he is certain she would rule consistent with his convictions.
Land, introducing himself as a sixth-generation Texan, said two virtues valued by Texas culture are “courage and loyalty.”
Since both Bush and Miers are Texans, Land said, “With a degree of understanding that would never have to be articulated, he and she both understand that if she were to get on the court, and she were to rule in ways that are contrary to the way the president would want her to approach her role as a justice, it would be a deep personal betrayal, and would be perceived as such both by him and by her.”
In 25 years of ministry, Warren has been viewed as a theological conservative who has emphasized church-growth principles while generally avoiding politics. Warren appeared alongside Jerry Falwell, a Bush supporter, at Falwell’s “Super Conference” at Liberty University. But he broke ranks with fundamentalists by speaking at the Baptist World Congress this summer, telling reporters he viewed the Southern Baptist Convention’s withdrawal from the Baptist World Alliance a “silly” mistake.
After a transcript of a May interview quoted Warren as saying his congregation is not a Southern Baptist church, Warren contacted Baptist Press to insist he had misunderstood the interviewer’s question.
“I’m Southern Baptist, our church is Southern Baptist, and we cooperate in SBC missions support at every level both in the United States and with our IMB [International Mission Board] missionaries around the world,” Warren said.
In his “Ministry Toolbox” newsletter Oct. 27, 2004, Warren stopped short of telling pastors to vote for Bush by name.
“As church leaders, we know our congregations are not allowed to endorse specific candidates,” he said. “And it’s important for us to recognize that there can be multiple opinions among Bible-believing Christians when it comes to debatable issues such as the economy, social programs, Social Security and the war in Iraq.
“But for those of us who accept the Bible as God’s Word and know that God has a unique, sovereign purpose for every life, I believe there are five issues that are non-negotiable. To me, they’re not even debatable because God’s Word is clear on these issues. In order to live a purpose-driven life–to affirm what God has clearly stated about his purpose for every person he creates–we must take a stand by finding out what the candidates believe about these five issues, and then vote accordingly.
“Here are five questions to ask when considering who to vote for in this election:
1. What does each candidate believe about abortion and protecting the lives of unborn children?
2. What does each candidate believe about using unborn babies for stem-cell harvesting?
3. What does each candidate believe about homosexual “marriage”?
4. What does each candidate believe about human cloning?
5. What does each candidate believe about euthanasia–the killing of elderly and invalids?”
“If the members of our congregations fail to vote on Tuesday,” Warren said, “we are actually surrendering our responsibility to choose the direction of our country for the next 40 years. If we do not vote, we have no right to criticize or complain when unbiblical decisions are made by the court in the decades ahead.”
In her letter announcing her withdrawal, Miers cited members of the Senate who said they intended to seek records about her service in the White House, which she said would present a “burden” for the White House staff “that is not in the best interest of the country.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.
Click here to read a transcript or listen to the conference call.
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Managing editor at EthicsDaily.com from 2003-2009, Allen wrote more than 1,500 news stories during his tenure.