Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Southern Seminary President Al Mohler are among speakers scheduled for an April 24 simulcast to portray Senate Democrats blocking President Bush’s judicial nominees as “against people of faith.”
The Family Research Council is sponsoring the event, labeled “Justice Sunday.” The 7 p.m. EDT service from Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., will be broadcast on the SkyAngel 2 television satellite and as a live Webcast, according to the FRC Web site.
“The filibuster was once abused to protect racial bias, and now it is being used against people of faith,” claims a flier for the event. A photo image shows a youth looking down at a gavel in one and a Bible in the other, under labels of “public service” and “faith in Christ.” A caption reads, “He should not have to choose.”
Joining Mohler and Frist, R-Tenn., on the program will be James Dobson of Focus on the Family and the Prison Fellowship’s Chuck Colson, according to the announcement.
The New York Times on Friday quoted a Frist spokesman, who said the senator would reflect previous remarks on judicial appointments. Frist, who is mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in 2008, has said he would not yield on Bush’s nominees but has also sought compromise with Democrats.
He has distanced himself from statements like those from House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who has decried “activist judges” he says are hostile to Christianity. On Wednesday DeLay, R-Texas, apologized for overheated rhetoric when he said Terri Schiavo’s death represented a legal failure and that, “The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior.”
According to the newspaper, spokesman Bob Stevenson dodged a question about Frist taking part in a religious gathering describing filibustering as against people of faith.
“Senator Frist is doing everything he can to ensure judicial nominees are treated fairly and that every senator has the opportunity to give the president their advice and consent through an up or down vote,” Stevenson said. “He has spoken to groups all across the nation to press that point, and as long as a minority of Democrats continue to block a vote, he will continue to do so.”
In a letter describing the event, FRC director Tony Perkins remarked:
“A day of decision is upon us. Whether it was the legalization of abortion, the banning of school prayer, the expulsion of the Ten Commandments from public spaces or the starvation of Terri Schiavo, decisions by the courts have not only changed our nation’s course, but even led to the taking of human lives. As the liberal, anti-Christian dogma of the left has been repudiated in almost every recent election, the courts have become the last great bastion for liberalism.
“For years activist courts, aided by liberal interest groups like the ACLU, have been quietly working under the veil of the judiciary, like thieves in the night, to rob us of our Christian heritage and our religious freedoms. Federal judges have systematically grabbed power, usurping the constitutional authority that resides in the other two branches of government and, ultimately, in the American people.
“We now have a president who is committed to nominate judicial candidates who are not activists, but strict constructionists–judges who will simply interpret the Constitution as it was written. We now have a majority in the U.S. Senate that will confirm these nominees. However, there is a radical minority that has launched an unprecedented filibuster against these outstanding men and women.
“Many of these nominees to the all-important appellate court level are being blocked, not because they haven’t paid their taxes or because they have used drugs or because they have criminal records or for any other reason that would disqualify them from public service; rather, they are being blocked because they are people of faith and moral conviction. These are people whose only offense is to say that abortion is wrong or that marriage should be between one man and one woman.
“Only 51 votes are needed to approve these nominees and most of these candidates, if not all, would receive more then 51 votes if a vote were held on the Senate floor. But a radical minority in the Senate is using the filibuster to block an up or down vote on the Senate floor. They are requiring a super majority, 60 votes, to proceed on these nominees. This liberal minority does not respect the will of the people: they want judge-made law because our elected officials will not give them the social anarchy they demand.”
Mohler, who writes a daily Weblog, recently featured an “activist jurist” who ruled California could not refuse marriage licenses to same-sex couples under the state’s Constitution.
Writing earlier on Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged Florida woman who died last month after a court ordered removal of her feeding tube, Mohler commented: “Once again, the court system has become a focus of controversy and an engine for a cultural agenda. The vast expansion of court authority and judicial activism should cause a chill to go down every American spine. Unless these trends are checked, we are increasingly facing a government ruled by judges, for judges, in the name of the courts. This is no way to run a democracy.”
The liberal group People For the American Way criticized Frist for joining forces with groups that use “charges of religious bigotry” to build support for his plan to “dismantle checks and balances that prevent one-party domination of the federal judiciary.”
“Men and women of deep faith can and do differ politically,” said PFAW President Ralph Neas, “but this event is clearly an attempt to manipulate religious faith for political purposes, and that is an outrage.”
Abraham Foxman of the Jewish Anti-Defamation League added that “playing the ‘religious’ card is as unacceptable as playing the race card.”
“The heated debate regarding the status of the filibuster in the United States Senate is a quintessentially political contest, not a religious struggle,” Foxman said in a letter. “Nor should it be portrayed as such. Whatever one’s views may be on this or any other issue, playing the ‘religious’ card is as unacceptable as playing the race card.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.