has a column up dismissing as ridiculous "charges that Democrats are acting out of anti-Catholic bias or bigotry when opposing Alabama Attorney General William Pryor�s nomination to the federal appeals bench, in part because of his views on abortion." So it's only his Catholic belefs that make him objectionable, not his membership in the Catholic Church. Seems like a disctinction without a difference to me.
Last week Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) claimed, �What we are seeing, de facto, from members of the other side is a religious test.�
Some even claim that the Democrats� opposition to Pryor for his hard-line position on abortion and other hot-button issues amounts to a violation of the ban on religious tests found in Article VI of the Constitution. As one fulminating right-wing commentator [link added] put it, �As with the Cavaliers who made Catholics publicly renounce the doctrine of transubstantiation, so now Senate Democrats insist that nominees renounce church teaching on abortion.�
Frankly, some charges are so cynical, reckless and baseless that they shouldn�t require refuting. But as long as Santorum & Co. are insisting, let�s go over a couple of reasons these charges make no sense � the first logical, the second functional.
First, is opposing a judicial nominee for having doctrinaire views on abortion the same as demanding that he or she renounce the doctrine of transubstantiation? Of course not.. . . Abortion is different.
The only difference I see is that if Pryor publicly renounced his opposition to abortion, he still would be blocked by the Democrats, whereas the Cavaliers would have given him a pass.
Religious believers argue that faith isn�t simply a private matter. It underlies the values and beliefs we bring to the public square. And they�re 100 percent right. But the shield that guards our private religious beliefs from any and every political scrutiny doesn�t follow those beliefs out into the public arena.
Huh? You can have religious beliefs, but if you might let them affect the conduct of your office, you're disqualified? That is exactly what Democrats have said, they could not accept William Pryor's sworn statement that he will apply precedent, because of his "deeply held religious beliefs."
Once our religiously rooted beliefs cross the membrane from the private to the public, they become no different from any other political beliefs. People are free to disagree with us and oppose us on that basis. That�s not bigotry. That�s democracy.
Ah, but it is bigotry, when your opposition is an "obstinate and unreasoning attachment of one's own belief and opinions, with narrow-minded intolerance of beliefs opposed to them." (See Dictionary.com
Marshall goes on to lecture us:
Abortion, like affirmative action, is one of the most emotionally charged issues in American politics. Voters routinely choose to vote for or against candidates based on these issues. And senators of both parties have used judicial nominees� positions on those issues to determine whether or not to vote for their confirmation, just as they do on the death penalty, gay rights and other issues.
Here's where his confusion becomes clear. He seems to think that Hewitt's is arguing legal issue, when it's really an analogy. Nobody is saying that the Courts should or would rule on this practice, but when the Constitution expressly prohibits religious tests for any appointment, it's a powerful argument that when Senators justify blocking a floor vote on a nominee because of he takes his religion seriously, they are violating the principles on which the republic was founded. To argue that being a Catholic is protected, but believing Catholic doctrine is grounds for vetoing a nomination, is pretty shoddy thinking.
Now, here's where the pseudo-legal sleight of pen comes in:
If you�re a secular humanist and opposed to abortion (Nat Hentoff, say), senators can vote against you because of your pro-life views. Or if you�re a Christian from a denomination that doesn�t take a clear stand against abortion (Episcopalians, say), they can do the same. But if you�re a Catholic who has down-the-line pro-life views, no senator can take a position on your nomination for any reason having to do with your stand on abortion.
That makes Catholics with ardent pro-life views a protected class.
Of course, if Congress passed a law that said no Catholics with ardent pro-life views could become federal judges it would be stricken immediately, so they ARE as protected class. But the Courts are unlikely to intervene in the inner workings of another branch of the government, so they can get away with it, in the sense that the courts won't overrule them, unless, I suppose, the shortage of judges gets more serious. The real silliness here is that Marshall's reduction ad absurdum
argument falls flat on its face. "All a pro-life president would need to do would be to nominate only Catholics to the bench to stack the court with pro-life jurists." Notice his unstated belief that no president should be allowed to nominate only pro-life jurists to the bench, which implies that the pro-life position is illegitimate. What would he say if the Republicans gain another 7 votes and stop the filibustering? We might see the Dems in Court.