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US Constitution: Article VI, Clause 3

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

Well, that seems pretty cut and dried, if you ask me. No religious test. Can’t pick you because you’re Methodist, can’t disqualify you if you’re Presbyterian. Can’t consider you because you’re a Christian, can’t ignore you because you’re an atheist. When it comes to senators, representatives, presidents, governors, and judges, the person’s religion cannot enter into the equation whatsoever.

But then President Bush decided he wanted to name his own personal lawyer, the hyper-loyal and fiercely sycophantic Texas crony Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. She’s never been a judge, though that’s not necessarily reason to disqualify her; many Supreme Court justices were never judges. She once ran the Texas Lottery Commission. That’s certainly better preparation for the Supreme Court than, say, judging Arabian Horses is a qualification for heading up FEMA.

The problem with Miers comes from Bush’s own base of babbling Biblical literalists who have been fighting for three decades to install one of their own on the bench. Someone who will cast a stern vote against the culture war skirmishes on indecency, obscenity, homosexual rights, and reproductive freedom. The righties are up in arms because there is no discernable record on Miers’ views on abortion, and some record of her support of gay rights. The wingnuts feel betrayed and they are letting Bush know it.

So recently President Bush had this to say:

“People are interested to know why I picked Harriet Miers. . . .[one of the reasons is that] part of Harriet Miers’ life is her religion.

Then we also get Dr. James Dobson, one of the leaders in the American Taliban, telling us this:

Support for President Bush’s new nominee to the high court, Harriet Miers, came from different quarters today. Both Focus on the Family Action Chairman Dr. James C. Dobson, Ph.D., and Mier’s minister, Pastor Ronald Key, assured evangelicals today they believed the 60-year-old White House Counsel and former Dallas lawyer would make a good Supreme Court justice.

He acknowledged the Miers nomination had “angered and disillusioned many Christian conservatives, many of my friends, many whom I love and have worked with for years.”

But asking if it makes any sense that President George W. Bush would sabotage the base of conservatives who worked and gave and supported him, Dobson answered his own question with a resounding — “I don’t believe it!”

“I don’t believe he’s done that,” Dobson said. “I don’t believe he would have nominated Harriet Miers if he knew that she was going to assassinate what he believed in and that the court would not be reformed the way he wants it to be.

She is a deeply committed Christian,” Dobson said. “She has been a believer in Jesus Christ since the late 1970s. I know the person who led her to the Lord. I know the church that she goes to. I know it’s a very conservative church. I know that she is a tithe-paying member at that church. I know that she has deep convictions about things. I have talked at length to people that know her — and have known her for a long time. Some of them have been a close personal friend of hers for 25 years. I trust these people because I know them—I know who they are and I know their character and I know what they stand their heart for the Lord.”

All of this religious talk from Bush and Dobson is meant to soothe the Religious Reich base. Don’t worry, she’s a “deeply committed Christian”, she’ll be just the kind of gay-hatin’ Roe-overturnin’ justice you’ve always dreamed of! It’s all code, — deeply committed Christian, strong religious background, strict Constructionist — that all means Bush is sure that when it comes to Supreme Court cases, Harriet will ask “What Would Jesus Do?” before she asks “what do the Constitution and our laws say?” For more evidence of the code-talking, two days later, Dobson had this to say:

The founder and chairman of Focus on the Family spoke to listeners from his heart just days after Miers was nominated by President Bush, saying he supported her in part because of things he had been told by White House adviser Karl Rove.

“I can’t reveal it all,” Dobson said at the time, “because I do know things that I’m privy to that I can’t describe because of confidentiality.

So now private religious leaders are made privy to confidential information by White House advisors regarding Supreme Court nominations? The Senate Judiciary committee was none too happy about that!

Sens. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the chairman and ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, indicated they were troubled by Dobson’s comments.

“The Senate Judiciary Committee is entitled to know whatever the White House knew,” Specter said on ABC’s “This Week.” “If Dr. Dobson knows something that he shouldn’t know or something that I ought to know, then I’m going to find out.”

“If assurances were given of how any nominee, whether this nominee or anybody else . . . how they’re going to vote in an upcoming case, I would vote against that person,” Leahy said, also on ABC.

A third member of the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., was pointed in his criticism of the administration.

“Karl Rove should let the public know what kind of assurances he gave James Dobson,” Schumer said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

Look, I’ve got no problems with good little Christians wanting to be judges, so long as they can keep God’s law in their church and private life while fairly deciding Man’s law in court for the public. Maybe Harriet Miers can do just that. But the signals I see from Dobson and Bush lead me to believe that her potential decisions on hot-button social issues are not at all in doubt in their minds, and they’re trying to let their religious conservative base know it.

The biggest problem, however, comes back to that Article VI, Clause 3. Bush said that one of the reasons he picked Harriet Miers was because of her religion. Bush said she was the best person he could find for the job. If religion played a part in selecting her, then lack of religion played a part in disqualifying others. At this point, it doesn’t matter how good or bad a justice she may or may not be; Bush has now offered up an unconstitutional pick to be confirmed by the Senate to adjudicate constitutional matters. Bush has used a religious test to select a judge.

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