Americans United for Separation of Church and State today blasted the Bush administration's stubbornness for re-submitting two federal court nominees - William Pryor and Janice Rogers Brown - who harbor extreme views on religious liberty.
President George W. Bush yesterday re-submitted the nominations of 12 judges, two of whom Americans United, has urged the Senate to defeat. Twice the Senate has blocked the nomination of former Alabama Attorney General Pryor to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Bush has also had trouble winning confirmation of California Supreme Court Justice Brown, who The New York Times wrote in a 2003 editorial "has declared war on the mainstream legal values that most Americans hold dear." Brown's nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia was blocked in the last Congress, but was also re-submitted yesterday by Bush.
"This administration is bent on radically re-making the federal bench," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. "No one can take seriously the president's suggestions of seeking unity when he doggedly pushes nominees who have advocated divisive, wildly outrageous views on some this country's most cherished liberties."
In 2003, Americans United called several times on the Senate to block both nominations of Pryor and Brown, noting that they have shown great disregard and blatant disrespect for the First Amendment principle of church-state separation.
But during the last congressional recess, Bush appointed Pryor to the 11th Circuit. That appointment is temporary and will expire unless this Congress confirms the nomination.
As noted in a 2003 report by AU, Pryor was an early defender of Alabama's "Ten Commandments" Judge Roy Moore, who spent many years fighting to keep a granite Commandments monument in the rotunda of the state Judicial Building. At a rally for Moore's crusade, Pryor declared that, "God has chosen, through his son Jesus Christ, this time, this place for all Christians - Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox - to save our country and save our courts."
Brown has also gone public with far-out views on long-established First Amendment precedent. In an Oct. 2003 letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Americans United detailed some of Brown's outlandish judicial philosophies. In a 1999 speech at Pepperdine University, Brown attacked the U.S. Supreme Court for relying too often "on a rather uninformative metaphor of the 'wall of separation' between church and state," and stated that the high court may have been wrong in 1940 to assert that the Bill of Rights is applicable to the states.
"Bush made promises to the nation's Religious Right and he is under immense pressure to follow through on those promises," Lynn said. "One of his oft-repeated campaign promises was to shape the federal courts. His nominations reveal exactly how he hopes to shape the bench - he wants a judiciary packed with jurists who will constrict civil liberties, not protect them.
"Just as we did in 2003 and 2004, Americans United is urging senators to stand against the president's efforts to damage fundamental rights in America by moving the federal courts to the extreme right," Lynn continued. "The moderates and centrists in the Senate must not be bullied by an administration beholden to a radical Religious Right agenda."
Americans United for Separation of Church and State is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.