Newly seated Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito has wasted no time currying favor with the Religious Right leaders who helped put him on the nation’s highest court.
In early March, the Associated Press reported that Alito sent a cloying thank-you note to Focus on the Family head James C. Dobson, a move Americans United says is further evidence the new justice is firmly in the pocket of the Religious Right.
“Justice Alito should follow the commands of the Constitution, not the orders of Dobson and the Religious Right,” said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “This note strongly suggests that Alito is carrying out a right-wing agenda instead of being a justice for all.
“This is grossly inappropriate,” continued Lynn. “Alito sounds like a political candidate doing a victory lap and thanking his backers rather than being a fair and independent judge.”
The AP reported that Dobson received a six-paragraph personal note from Alito. In the letter, Alito thanked Dobson for backing his nomination to the Supreme Court.
Read the missive, “This is just a short note to express my heartfelt thanks to you and the entire staff of Focus on the Family for your help and support during the past few challenging months. I would also greatly appreciate it if you would convey my appreciation to the good people from all parts of the country who wrote to tell me that they were praying for me and for my family during this period.”
Alito went on, “As long as I serve on the Supreme Court I will keep in mind the trust that has been placed in me” and expressed his desire for a personal meeting with Dobson.
Dobson, who has a daily radio show, read the letter on the air.
The FOF leader and other Religious Right luminaries enthusiastically backed Alito’s confirmation because they think he will restrict civil rights and civil liberties and rule against church-state separation
Dobson and other Religious Right leaders tried to downplay the significance of the note, calling it a mere courtesy.
“We don’t believe that thank-you notes are part of a right-wing agenda,” said Tom Minnery, FOF’s senior vice president for government and public policy. “We believe that everyone ought to be nice.”
Conservative media commentators echoed that argument. When Lynn appeared on Fox News Channel’s “The O’Reilly Factor” to discuss the note, O’Reilly quickly dismissed the entire affair as unimportant.
O’Reilly told Lynn, “Reverend, look, with all due respect and you know I love you as a guest – you’re one of the best. [But] you’re paranoid and crazy. You’re paranoid and you’re crazy…. [Y]ou’re seeing this as some kind of conspiracy to bring God into it? Come on.”
Countered Lynn, “I think the letter demonstrates what we knew about Sam Alito — or many of us thought we did before — that he is, in fact, in bed with the so-called Religious Right.”