Political Hay

Antireligious Tests

To counter the Democrats' anti-Catholic bigotry, John Roberts could point out that two Catholics signed the Constitution. Would they be unconfirmable?

By 7.21.05

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For many Democrats the only good Catholic is a bad one -- a Catholic ready to dissent from his religion for the sake of a spot in the secularized public square. Pat Leahy, Chuck Schumer, and company are sure to question, in one veiled form or another, Supreme Court nominee John Roberts about his Catholicism. That is, they won't baldly ask him about his religion but they will probe his "personal" views, and the question implied will be: You promise to give our judges' liberal rewriting of the Constitution greater priority than your own religion, right?

Anticipating this angle, the mainstream media have already begun to red flag Roberts' religion. On CNN, Miles O'Brien asked a guest: "And, you know, he's, you know, by all accounts, a Roman Catholic who adheres to the tenets of that faith. Do you suspect that he will advocate and when the opportunity comes up, reversing some of the key aspects of Roe v. Wade, which provide abortion rights in this country?"

On MSNBC, one of Tucker Carlson's sparring partners even raised an objection to Roberts' wife's personal views, reporting with alarm her ties to a pro-life group.

To counter the Democrats' anti-Catholic bigotry -- which below its euphemistic covering amounts to saying that believing Catholics can't be trusted with the Constitution -- Roberts could point out that two Catholics, Thomas Fitzsimons and Daniel Carroll, signed it. Would they be unconfirmable, incapable of interpreting correctly the Constitution they contributed to writing? Of course, the men who wrote the Constitution are the last people the Democrats look to for its meaning, so this wouldn't impress them. But it might put them on the defensive.

It has before. Recall how beet red and flustered Pat Leahy, a pro-abortion Catholic, got during the controversy over William Pryor in 2004 when the group the Committee for Justice had the nerve to call him out on his litmus test against believing Catholic judges. His famous run-in with Dick Cheney was due in part to his anger at the group's "Catholics Need Not Apply" ad that had exposed his bigotry against members of his own religion.

Leahy and the Democrats insisted that they weren't applying an antireligious test against Pryor, but it was obvious in their hectoring attempts to get Pryor to cry uncle and repudiate his Catholic pro-life views that they were. A blundering Dianne Feinstein had lectured Pryor: "Virtually in every area you have extraordinarily strong views which continue and come out in a number of different ways. Your comments about Roe make one believe, could he really, suddenly, move away from those comments and be a judge?"

Chuck Schumer had said: "In General Pryor's case his beliefs are so well known, so deeply held, that it is very hard to believe, very hard to believe, that they are not going to deeply influence the way he comes about saying, 'I will follow the law...'"

What they were saying to Pryor was: since you refuse to give greater authority to our liberal jurisprudence than your Catholicism, we can't confirm you.

The Democrats couldn't even stop themselves from questioning Pryor about his vacation schedule and the personal views that led to its rearrangement: the Democrats were very troubled when they learned that he didn't want to take his children to Disney World during its "Gay Days." Because Pryor wouldn't cry uncle on this matter either -- Did they expect him to say, 'No, you are right, Senator Feingold, I should have taken my children to Gay Days, and the Church is just wrong on these matters"? -- they considered his "temperament" unsuitable to service on the bench.

Since everything for the Democrats comes down to Roe v. Wade -- as it contains within it the revolutionary wedge without which uprooting the written Judeo-Christian Constitution and creating the space for their unwritten relativistic one is impossible -- Roberts' membership in a religion explicitly opposed to abortion is a matter of intense interest to them. Adele Stan, writing in the American Prospect, a barometer of Democratic thinking, paid special attention to Roberts' Catholicism, commenting sourly that "If you give nothing else to the strategists in the Bush administration, you've got to admit, these guys are good. By all accounts, Roberts is a first-class lawyer. In choosing a Roman Catholic, Bush is betting he's bought himself some insulation -- any opposition to Roberts, particularly because of his anti-abortion record, will likely be countered with accusations of anti-Catholicism. A timely pitch, one must say, to conservative Catholic voters prior to the midterm elections."

Let's hope she is right, and the Republicans repeat what they did during the Pryor hearings and draw attention to the anti-Catholic test contained in the Democrats' criteria. They are not looking for a judge but a politically correct signatory to the ongoing Constitutional Convention they want the Supreme Court to remain. All the talk of a nominee's "personal views" is nothing more than a litmus test against those who subscribe to the theistic philosophy that informed America's founding documents. By "mainstream thinking" the Democrats mean thinking like those in the minority, a group of de facto secularists who only approve of followers of religion entering the public square if they promise to lose it.

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About the Author
George Neumayr, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is co-author, with Phyllis Schlafly, of the new book, No Higher Power: Obama's War on Religious Freedom.