Thanks to Holly, hard at work at a trade show in Chicago, for sending me a link to this
The federal judiciary has an enormous impact in shaping life in America. The political debate over what kind of judges we want in these lifetime positions is legitimate and important.
Not so legitimate is the use of exaggerated, inflammatory rhetoric and religious invective by conservative groups that are waging all-out war on judicial independence — a dangerous trend that has alarmed a broad spectrum of Jewish leaders. And politicians who should know better are joining the chorus.
This week, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) was scheduled to appear on a simulcast organized by conservative Christian groups to support Republican efforts to end filibusters on judicial nominees. The filibuster is a legitimate issue for debate. What is alarming is the claim by some of these groups that their opponents, as well as the judges they accuse of “judicial tyranny,” are waging war against people of faith.
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) recently appeared at a forum on “Confronting the Judicial War on Faith” with activists who called for the wholesale impeachment of federal judges and at least one who suggested that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy was driven by “satanic” principles. And in a Senate floor statement that may have set a new low for irresponsibility, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) seemed to suggest a possible connection between several recent courthouse attacks and public dissatisfaction with liberal judges.
Taken together, all of this points to an escalating assault by forces with little understanding of the separation of powers in the American system and a reckless willingness to use the most dangerous, inflammatory kind of rhetoric.
As Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham Foxman noted last week, the fight over the judiciary is a political one, not a religious struggle.
“Whatever one’s views may be on this or any other issue, playing the religious card is as unacceptable as playing the race card,” Foxman said.
We agree. It’s important to support judicial independence even when it produces unpopular results, and it’s critical to avoid escalating what has already become a bitter culture war with ugly religious overtones.