A Southern Baptist Convention officer told a national television audience Sunday night that Terri Schiavo was “murdered” by “an adulterous husband.”
Introduced as first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention to a crowd at Two Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville, Tenn., and simulcast live to a reported 79 million households in 50 states, host pastor Jerry Sutton said he had a message to Democrats regrouping after losing the last presidential election.
“It’s a new day,” Sutton said. “Liberalism is dead. The majority of Americans are conservative. You can count on us showing up and speaking out. Let the church rise.”
“Pastors across America, I want to say this to you: You are the leaders. You speak for God. We care about our country,” he said.
Sutton, who was elected in June to as SBC first vice president for 2005-2006, also invoked last year’s dispute between a Florida man seeking to have his brain-damaged wife removed from life support and her parents who wanted to prolong her life. Courts finally ordered removal of her feeding tube, Congress tried to intervene, and she died days later.
“I’ve heard a lot recently about Terri Schiavo,” he said. “She was murdered by a combination of an adulterous husband, a corrupt court and a medical establishment with no conscience.”
The program, Justice Sunday II, was a follow-up broadcast to Justice Sunday—Stopping the Filbuster Against People of Faith, which reached an estimated audience of 61 million people in 42 states when broadcast in April from HighviewBaptistChurch in Louisville, Ky.
“We are here tonight to raise awareness about why every American should be concerned about who sits on the Supreme Court,” said Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, which co-sponsored the program with Focus on the Family Action.
“We do not claim the right to speak for every American, but we do claim the right to speak,” Perkins said. “And speak we will for the millions of American families across this great nation who share our concerns tonight.”
The broadcast from Two Rivers was subtitled “God Save the United States and this Honorable Court” and focused on confirmation of Supreme Court nominee John Roberts.
Speaking via satellite, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson said “it looks like Judge Roberts is a strict constructionist,” or someone who would interpret the Constitution literally.
“Only time will reveal what his judicial philosophy will be and how he will rule on the issues that matter to us most,” Dobson said.
“For now at least he looks good,” Dobson said. “We need to defend his nomination from … the minions on the left who want to [keep] the majority on this court that has done their bidding for so very long. We can expect them to turn the confirmation process into a circus.”
“We must weigh in right now,” Dobson said. “It’s time to bring greater balance to the judiciary. I urge every single person listening tonight to participate in this exercise in democracy.”
Other speakers focused not only on Roberts but also on future Bush appointees. Perkins said the recent retirement of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor could be the first of three Supreme Court vacancies to occur during President Bush’s second term, providing an opportunity to tilt the majority from liberal to conservative.
Jim Daly, elected in February as president and CEO of Focus on the Family, sounded a theme echoed by other speakers. He accused “activist” judges of “legislating from the bench” by interpreting the Constitution in rulings unpopular to religious conservatives. They include legalized abortion and gay marriage, and also limiting religious expression by banning prayer in schools, removing “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance and removing displays of the Ten Commandments from public buildings.
“The founding fathers did not intend for the courts to have absolute power over us,” Daly said.
The audience at Two Rivers responded enthusiastically to introduction of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. The Texas Republican is under investigation for ethics violations, but many cultural conservatives hail him as a martyr being singled out for political persecution because of his conservative views.
Prison Fellowship founder Chuck Colson said he has worked over the years with DeLay in a lecture series “where he and I have worked together to teach a biblical world view to members of Congress.”
Colson illustrated “what kind of a Christian” DeLay is with a story about an Easter Communion service Colson led at a Texas prison. Among all the white prison uniforms coming through the line, Colson said, “Right in the middle, there’s the majority leader of the United States House of Representatives.”
“That’s a man who lives his faith and proves the ground is level at the foot of the cross,” Colson said.
“All wisdom does not reside in nine persons in black robes,” DeLay said. “I have the utmost respect for the judicial branch of our government … but our respect and admiration does not grant judges the power many have assumed in recent years.”
DeLay cited a “movement into judicial activism,” principally from the political left, to enact laws the public would not accept from elected politicians, which he termed “judicial supremacy” and “judicial autocracy.”
“We are here to protect the Constitution so it can keep protecting us,” said DeLay. “Justice Sunday isn’t a protest against anything. It’s a rally in support of a constitutional judiciary.”
Another featured politician, former Sen. Zell Miller, is a lifelong Democrat who spoke last year at the Republican National Convention and has written two books claiming the Democratic Party has lost touch with the American people.
“For way too long the Supreme Court has been handing down decisions that people of faith simply cannot accept,” Miller said.
He said the judiciary has “removed prayer and the Bible from schools,” each Christmas “kidnaps the Baby Jesus,” “legalized the barbaric killing of unborn babies,” and “is ready to discard like a an outdated hula hoop the institution of marriage.”
“Now is the time, this is our chance,” Miller said. “Call and write your senators and organize your friends to do the same. Cover this confirmation process with a blanket of prayer. When they make it harder to pray, we just pray harder. For this is our chance to be doers of the word and not hearers only.”
Catholic League President Bill Donahue said he is often asked by media, “Why are Catholics and evangelicals getting together?”
“I’ve got news for you, get used to it,” he said.
“What is wrong with evangelicals?” Donahue asked. “They demonize you people. If you did it to any other segment of the population you could call them a bigot. When someone demonizes you, they are a bigot.”
Donahue said such questions come from secularists.
“Some are perhaps people of faith. I’m not going to question that,” he said. “All I’m saying is I have nothing in common with them. I have something in common with you.”
“It’s time that we moved to the front of the bus and we took command of the wheel,” Donahue said. “We’re tired of being second class citizens to these people, and we’re not going to take it any longer.”
Bishop Harry Jackson, senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in College Park, Md., said he is part of a “new black church” that believes “righteousness and justice are the foundation” of God’s will.
Jackson said he envisions the conservative black church working with white evangelicals and Catholics to “bring the rule and reign of the cross to America.”
“We’re not just going to sit back and let America go down this ramp of moral decline,” he said. “I’m not black alone. I’m an American, and beyond that I’m a Christian.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.