Friday, August 6, 2010

Conservatives Get 'Slap in the Face'

Groups were busy responding to fights over marriage, the Supreme Court, and a mosque near Ground Zero.

Tobin Grant

Political activists faced major decisions this week as same-sex marriage, the Supreme Court, and a mosque dominated the news cycle. A federal judge ruled that California's marriage amendment violates the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. Elena Kagan was confirmed as the newest Supreme Court justice. And attempts to block a mosque near the World Trade Center site were unanimously rebuffed.

Proposition 8: 'Armageddon may be close at hand'

When Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that California's ballot-approved marriage amendment violated the U.S. Constitution, the reaction from political activists was immediate.

Chuck Colson told BreakPoint listeners, "I have warned you for months that our religious freedoms are imperiled. Well, Armageddon may be close at hand if a new court decision holds up."

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), said the ruling is "a grievously serious crisis in how the American people will choose to be governed."

"An unelected federal judge has chosen to override the will of the people of California and to redefine an institution the federal government did not create and that predates the founding of America. Indeed, 'marriage' goes back to the Garden of Eden, where God defined His institution of marriage as being between one man and one woman," said Land.

Lou Sheldon, chairman and founder of the Traditional Values Coalition said that "it is an outrage that one arrogant and rogue federal judge can take it upon himself to overturn a centuries old definition of marriage and family … Direct Democracy has been blatantly attacked today."

President of Concerned Women for America (CWA) Wendy Wright agreed that the ruling was anti-democratic and should be overturned.

"Judge Walker has declared, in effect, that his opinion is supreme and 'We the People' are no longer free to govern ourselves," said Wright. "Citizens of California voted to uphold marriage because they understood the sacred nature of marriage and that homosexual activists use same-sex 'marriage' as a political juggernaut to indoctrinate young children in schools to reject their parent's values and to harass, sue and punish people who disagree."

Citizenlink's Jenny Tyree objected to Walker's decision, in part because he said opposition to same-sex marriage was irrational.

"He singles out people of faith—as ifdocuments like the Bible are the only place to get theidea thatthere are two halves of humanity—male and female, and that children result fromheterosexual union," said Tyree. "But marriage wouldn't have been defended at the ballot box 31 timesif it wasn'tsupported also by people who do not claim a religious faith."

There was also some finger-pointing in one response to the ruling. The Liberty Counsel said the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) had put on a weak defense of the proposition. The Liberty Counsel had attempted to work on the case in 2009 "because of concern that the case was not being adequately defended." The request was denied because it did not represent—Yes on 8, the official proponents of the ballot proposition. The official proponents were represented by ADF.

In a statement, Liberty Counsel said, "After ADF actively opposed Liberty Counsel, ADF presented only two witnesses at trial, following the 15 witnesses presented by those who challenged the amendment. Even Judge Walker commented that he was concerned by the lack of evidence presented by ADF on behalf of Prop 8." (More on Liberty Counsel—ADF story here.)

The case is expected to eventually go to the U.S. Supreme Court, and ADF is planning to appeal the ruling. But some are not confident about the outcome of such an appeal.

Colson said his hope was not in the appeal but "in the groundswell of public outrage and resistance."

"It's time we took a stand. Millions of us have got to speak up and say, 'No, we'll give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, never to Caesar what belongs to God,'" said Colson.

Colson also said that the judge's sexuality could be a factor. "Inasmuch as Walker is one of the few openly gay federal judges, maybe his dismissal shouldn't shock us, either," said Colson.

Family Research Council (FRC) president Tony Perkins warned that an appeal could result in making same-sex marriage a more contentious issue. "This lawsuit, should it be upheld on appeal and in the Supreme Court, would become the 'Roe v. Wade' of same-sex 'marriage,' overturning the marriage laws of 45 states. As with abortion, the Supreme Court's involvement would only make the issue more volatile," said Perkins.

Land agreed that the outcome of an appeal to the Supreme Court could go either way.

"If and when the Supreme Court agrees with the lower court, then the American people will have to decide whether they will insist on continuing to have a government of the people, by the people and for the people, or whether they're going to live under the serfdom of government by the judges, of the judges and for the judges," said Land. He said the only option available may be to pass an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In the meantime, he called for "sustained prayer, for revival, awakening and deliverance."

The American Family Association (AFA) has called for Judge Walker's impeachment. Under the Constitution, judges may be impeached if they violate a standard of "good Behaviour." According to the AFA, Walker violated this standard in two ways.

First, the AFA said that by even considering the case, Walker "exceeded his constitutional authority and engaged in judicial tyranny." According to Walker's decision, however, the issue was not marriage but the application of the 14th Amendment, which is a federal issue.

Second, the AFA said, "Judge Walker is an open homosexual, and should have recused himself from this case due to his obvious conflict of interest." AFA's Bryan Fischer further said, "[Walker] is Exhibit A as to why homosexuals should be disqualified from public office … A man who ignores time-honored standards of sexual behavior simply cannot be trusted with the power of public office."

Kagan Confirmed

Solicitor General Elena Kagan was confirmed yesterday as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. The Senate approved President Obama's nominee on a largely partisan vote of 63 to 37. Kagan was opposed by conservative groups for her presumed positions on social issues such as abortion and gay rights.

"Elena Kagan will bring a radical judicial philosophy and a history of sharp-edged political maneuvering to the nation's highest legal bench. Her confirmation is another body-blow against genuine constitutional governance," said FRC's Tony Perkins. "Her confirmation is especially troubling in light of yesterday's ruling by a San Francisco federal judge striking down the historical definition of marriage. She has shown repeatedly that she will do exactly what she says a judge should not—creatively reinterpret the written text of the Constitution according to her own convictions."

Citizenlink's Bruce Hausknecht noted that the vote was closer than the vote for Justice Sonia Sotomayor last year (68-31). "That tells me that we're making progress in the debate over judicial philosophy, even if it's only with Republicans who should have understood who Sotomayor was in the first place," said Hausknecht.

"I'm disappointed an elderly liberal has been replaced by a younger liberal," said ERLC's Land. Kagan is not expected to lead to major changes to the Supreme Court, since she is replacing 90-year-old Justice John Paul Stevens who was also seen as a liberal member of the Court.

"I don't think most Americans share Kagan's judicial philosophy. But Barack Obama was elected president, and he has nominated someone who shares his judicial philosophy," said Land. "People should remember that when they vote. Elections have consequences, long-term consequences."

Mosque in Manhattan

One of the more emotional issues this week was the proposed Cordoba House Islamic Center in Manhattan. The proposed mosque would be located two blocks from the site of the World Trade Center attack. Part of one of the airplanes from September 11, 2001, went through the roof of the building at the proposed site of the so-called Ground Zero mosque.

The American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ) were witnesses for the commission, filing a letter that said the proposed mosque was irrelevant. The ACLJ further said that "the controversy and political correctness surrounding the proposed use as a 13-story mosque" may make the commission more, not less, inclined to let the center be built on the site.

The ACLJ repeatedly stated that it objects to having a mosque on the site.

"We're hopeful that the court will nullify the Commission's vote and conclude what most New Yorkers and Americans understand—this site is sacred ground and not the place to build a mosque," wrote the ACLJ.

The ACLJ has also encourged support for its petition, "NO Mosque at Ground Zero," and its committee, "Committee to STOP the Ground Zero Mosque." The organization is also conducting a $450,000 "Fight for Freedom" matching challenge to fund the group's efforts, including its work to "fight disturbing plans to build an Islamic mosque at Ground Zero."

There were also many who voiced support or tolerance for the Islamic center.

Elijah Friedeman of the AFA disagreed with those—including others at the AFA—who actively opposed the mosque.

"If we profess to believe in freedom of religion, then we should not change our views simply because that freedom is exercised in bad taste. America doesn't embrace religious freedom just so Christians can enjoy it. We are a nation that has traditionally seen the value in allowing religious freedom for all. And that 'all' means Muslims too, including their right to build a mosque near Ground Zero," said Friedeman.

Sojourners president Jim Wallis also backed the decision. "This is a very important moment," said Wallis. "Whether we allow religious freedom for Americans of Islamic faith—near Ground Zero or anywhere else—will determine our own character, the integrity of our faith, and our real commitment to the ideals that have distinguished our nation. Let's not let fear and bigotry force us to make the wrong decision here."

Faith in Public Life's Dan Nejfelt called the opposition to the Islamic center "shameful." He praised the Commission's decision.

"Instead of caving in to the angry voices—many but not all of them self-promoting Republican politicians—commissioners paved the way for construction of the mosque and Islamic center. It was not just the right thing to do, it was the only thing to do," said Nejfelt.

New York's Landmark Preservation Commission voted unanimously to allow the mosque to be built.