Higher authority

Ed Williams, editorialist at the Charlotte Observer, asks what I’ve been wondering on John Roberts and the Catholic Church:

I wonder what the Catholic bishops who objected to John Kerry’s separation of religion from politics are thinking now that President Bush has nominated John Roberts for the U.S. Supreme Court.

Some bishops favored denying communion to Kerry because of his support for abortion rights. Some even suggested that it’s a Catholic public official’s duty to work to make the law reflect the church’s position on abortion.

Roberts, described by friends as a devout Catholic, could someday be in a position to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion rights decision. If he were given the opportunity and declined to do so, would these bishops favor denying him communion? Would that possibility affect his service on the court? Surely some senator will ask.

It is a question that should be asked and answered. If a justice or a president said that they answered to a higher (human) authority, then we not selecting them but the person they obey.

Williams quotes at length John Kennedy’s speech on religion from the 1960 campaign:

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute; where no Catholic prelate would tell the President — should he be Catholic — how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference, and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him, or the people who might elect him.

I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no public official either requests or accept instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials, and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all….

I believe in a President whose views on religion are his own private affair, neither imposed upon him by the nation, nor imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office….

I want a Chief Executive whose public acts are responsible to all and obligated to none….

I do not speak for my church on public matters; and the church does not speak for me. Whatever issue may come before me as President, if I should be elected, on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject, I will make my decision in accordance with these views — in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be in the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressure or dictates. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise.

But if the time should ever come — and I do not concede any conflict to be remotely possible — when my office would require me to either violate my conscience or violate the national interest, then I would resign the office; and I hope any conscientious public servant would do likewise.

Quite the litmus test.

  • Right of Center

    p.s. demanding the separation of church and state within the conscience of a nominee is just a specious justification for bigotry.

  • http://thealguy.blogspot.com/ Al Hill

    Do you think that anyone now holding a leadership position in current US politics could say this and be believed? I see more and more of the church in everyday politics in the US … and one of the things that scares me about that is that someday they will start fighting each other again … and we have seen where that leads … I truly believe that the separation of church and state was one of the best ideas that the founders of our nation had … I hope we manage to keep it …

  • http://blog.lightfrog.com P. Ingemi

    As a believing Catholic I must admit this is a very valid point.

    The bishops are quite correct that Abortion is an objective evil and that a Catholic who supports an objective evil risks his soul, the soul is the primary focus of their duty

    So we have two conflicting points. If we disqualify Judge Roberts we are applying a religious test in violation of the Constitution. Yet if he can’t rule on cases in good conscience then he can not honerabley accept the position. As a Catholic or as any other Christian demonination his duty to his own soul must take presidence.

    If Judge Roberts was confirmed and faced an abortion case which he considered the “right to abortion” supported by the Constitution he would be required to recuse himself because if he opposed the case agasint the Constitution then he would be in violation of his oath as a justice and if he supported it he would endanger his soul which has to trump that oath.

    HOWEVER if he believes that Roe is wrongly decided BASED on the law and the CONSTITUTION and that belief is not based on his religious beliefs then he can serve honorably.

    The question is basically the chicken and the egg. And it is a tough one.

  • Right of Center

    Silly.

    Imagine asking a nominee if they think that private ownership of the “means of production” has any negative effects or should be regulated in any way.

    “It is a question that should be asked and answered. If a justice or a president said that they answered to a higher [ideology] , then we not selecting them but the [ideology] they obey.”

    McCarthyite!

  • EricH

    Roberts job as a judge is to rule on the constitutionality of legislation. Not whether the law is good or bad, right or wrong, just or unjust. He may think a law is stupid or immoral or unjust; but he cannot strike it down based on those personal and subjective reasons. He can only strike it down if it violates the Constitution. If it doesn’t violate the Constitution, he cannot rule it improper just because he thinks it’s immoral.

    Kerry, on the other hand, makes laws. He writes legislation. He imposes his views of what is just and unjust, right and wrong, moral and immoral when he proposes laws. Kerry thinks it’s unfair or unjust that the minimum wage is $6.00 and that it should be $7.00 Kerry thinks it’s unfair that we don’t offer free abortions to females. Kerry thinks it’s unjust that we don’t have universal health care or that the wealthy don’t pay more in taxes. And on and on and on. Ditto with Kennedy.

    In each instance, Kerry imposes his personal subjective views of what is fair and just, right and wrong, indeed moral and immoral on the rest of us. And he has admitted that his religious views form the foundation of his views on other matters, especially economic ones.

    But for some reason, Kerry – who says he believes abortion is wrong – thinks it would be suddenly improper to impose THAT view on others. Impose his views of the minimum wage? Okay. Impose his views on taxes? Okay. Impose his views on the death penalty? Okay. Impose his view on abortion. Not okay.

    He’s not just a cafeteria Catholic, he’s a cafeteria Congressman.

    EricH

  • SteveMG

    It appears that Mr. Williams missed these quotes from Senator Kerry:

    “My faith, and the faith I have seen in the lives of so many Americans, also teaches me that, ‘Whatever you do to the least of these, you do unto me.’ That means we have a moral obligation to one another, to the forgotten, and to those who live in the shadows. This is a moral obligation at the heart of all our great religious traditions.”

    In a speech at a Mississippi church on March 7, Kerry said Bush does not practice the ‘compassionate conservatism’ he preaches, and quoted James 2:14, ‘What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?’”

    And here’s Kerry from the pulpit (literally):
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A40595-2004Oct17.html

    As Mike McCurry put it:
    “I would really like to see Democrats speak genuinely and authentically about how religion and how faith informs the positions we take on so many issues — social justice issues, how we deal with issues that concern the dispossessed, the poor.”

    So the personal religious views of Kerry does influence and form his political views. He says his faith forms the moral obligations that he embraces and promotes.

    Did Williams miss all this?

    It appears that if the faith forms the basis for liberal legislation, that’s okay. But if it is the basis for legislation liberals don’t like, then it’s a violation of the Establishment Clause.

    That won’t wash anymore.

    SMG

  • http://thealguy.blogspot.com/ Al Hill

    SMG again you miss the difference between making law and judging law … the one making the law is supposed to be representing the people that elected him … that includes their beliefs and values .. the one judging the law is supposed to make sure that ones person or group of peoples beliefs are not the death of another group … again .. judging the law .. and … making the law … two very differant things …

  • SteveMG

    Al:
    Thanks for clarifying my remarks.

    You’re absolutely right. Roberts job – if he’s confirmed – is to judge on the Constitutionality of laws. His personal views – whether they are based on secular or sectarian sources – are irrelevant to his job. He may not like a law, he may think a law is immoral or unjust or stupid but he cannot simply strike it down based on those reasons. It must violate the Constitution.

    Admittedly, however, he cannot escape his skin. He’s not a robot. He’s a human with all of our prejudices – conscious or not – built in.

    But my point is that it’s odd (and wrong) to quote Kerry when we’re talking about Roberts. Both have two different tasks.

    Moreover, Kerry UNDERCUTS the argument against Roberts for Kerry has acknowledged that his faith DOES and MUST form the basis for his actions in the Senate. Kerry admits – indeed supports – using his religion to form the basis for his legislative actions.

    I guess this means that Kerry is unqualified to sit on the Supreme Court. Guess Bush will have to strike his name down on the list of potential future nominees (as if).

    Thanks.

    SMG

  • TWendell

    Al:
    Why is it okay for Kerry to use his faith as a member of the legislature when passing laws but it’s wrong for Roberts to use his faith as a member of the judiciary when engaged in judicial review of laws?

    Doesn’t the Establishment Clause apply to all branches of government?

    Turk

  • Rick Knepper

    Comparing John Kerry’s support of abortion rights to Mr. Roberts’ hypothetical vote not to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision fails the Apple/Orange test.

    1.) Kerry’s position = known, Roberts position = unknown, speculative
    2.) Kerry personally supports abortion rights, Roberts may or may not, but his decision to overtrun or not will be based on the U.S. Constitution (as all judges assert), something quite outside of his personal control.

  • Right of Center

    "Are you now or have you ever been a member of an organized religion?"

  • http://marginalizingmorons.blogspot.com/ CaptiousNut

    I agree with EricH.

    Anyone who thinks modern-day liberalism isn’t a “faith-based” system of beliefs is off their rocker.

  • http://oodja.blogspot.com Jersey Exile

    Do you think that anyone now holding a leadership position in current US politics could say this and be believed?

    Are you not aware of the fact that Justice Antonin Scalia has repeatedly said this on many different occasions?

    You know, I think probably 90 percent of the American people believe in the Ten Commandments, and I’ll bet you that 85 percent of them couldn’t tell you what the ten are. And when somebody goes by that monument, I don’t think they’re studying each one of the commandments. It’s a symbol of the fact that government comes — derives its authority from God. And that is, it seems to me, an appropriate symbol to be on State grounds.

    Jeff is absolutely right to think that this is a valid question.

  • Oreb

    P. Ingemi Says:
    “If we disqualify Judge Roberts we are applying a religious test in violation of the Constitution..”

    mmmm, no –
    The “religious test” prohibition refers to the then British requirement that government be comprised of congregants of the Church of England.
    The founders rejected this qualification for office.

    It most certainly does not mean that a nominee may not be rejected if his religious affiliation prevents him from from fulfilling his oath to the constitution.

  • http://blog.lightfrog.com P. Ingemi

    Oreb is quite correct in his history, but his arguement would if taken to its conclusion, be used to create a de-facto disqualification of a person of a particular faith from government positions.

    Again my arguement is the chicken and the egg. If the position drawn is based on law then it is proper even if it parallels his faith. It would be dishonorable if done otherwise, for it would be involve either a betrayal of duty to the law or duty to his soul.

    At least that’s my opinion
    .

  • Maureen

    Considering that JFK (& every other male in his family) was a serial adulterer, nailing any woman who moved, his belief in his “faith” was a total joke–as is the “Catholicism” of every other Kennedy (who give lip service to it purely because it’s pretty handy in heavily Catholic Massachusetts). That’s a pretty poor example.

    What’s interesting is whether Jeff & others, if Roberts were to overturn Roe v. Wade, would blame it on his religion or accept that he’s doing it on legal terms? Because he’s Catholic, I’m guessing most would blame that & not accept his rulings based on the reading of law.

    Catholicism is one of the last bigotries it’s safe to have. We can innocently ask about potential judges, politicians, etc., “But will they really act in the national interest or based on their faith” as a way to keep them out of office. Heck, Jeff’s saying the same thing that my father heard back in the 1950s when he was trying to become a school teacher & was kept out of school districts who were afraid that “the Papacy” would influence his teaching. Wanna know how acceptable the anti-Catholic bias is? Imagine a Muslim being nominated. Can you picture the outraged howls if people were then to question whether he/she could perform their job separate from their religion?

  • http://submandave.blogspot.com submandave

    As I’ve pointed out in a separate post on my blog, there is something disengenuous when we draw distinction between identical beliefs and political positions based solely upon if the position is based upon religion or not. If an individual felt abortion was wrong based upon a belief in the “right to life” expressed in the Declaration of Independence, or based upon the belief that it stops a beating heart or based upon the belief that it is a sin against God, I see no substantial reason to judge these greatly different in merit. At the risk of being lumped in with one of those “Anti-Christ” paranoia sects, I do think the unique and singular role the Pope plays in the moral life of Catholics could create concern, but I agree with RoC that an automatic dismissal of any religiously-based moral beliefs established a defacto recognition of secularism as the state religion.

  • Skate

    Wow! This thread has some nasty undertones in it. Just another reason to be sure that it is Vital for America to keep a wall of separation between church and state.

    It is curious that so many conservatives and Catholic’s are eager to pounce on Kerry for his position on abortion to the extreme of denying him communion for political payback, but these same people all seem to give Catholic conservative Arnold Schwarzenegger a free pass! I didn’t hear of any Catholic churches that said they would deny Schwarzenegger. Just another example of conservative moral relativism.

    EricH wrote, of Kerry, “He’s not just a cafeteria Catholic, he’s a cafeteria Congressman.”

    Er, you know that just doesn’t make any sense. Cafeteria Congressman? Completely nonsensical.

    Now, as for accusing Kerry of being a cafeteria Catholic, almost all American Catholics, I think, are selective in their adoption of church doctrine. American Catholics are known for it. The number of Catholics in the US who use birth control (universally condemned by the church except for the ineffective “rhythm method”) is very high.

    Also, ask American Catholics if they believe that a priest turns wafers and wine into the actuall body and blood of Christ and they will say no, it is symbolic–even though people who think the holy sacrament is symbolic are properly called Protostants.

    So, EricH, I think you might wish dismounting from your high horse before making comments about Kerry being a cafeteria Catholic–especially when GWB is a cafeteria Christian (pro War and Death Penalty, anti Government welfare for the poor and needy.)

  • http://PunditReveiw.com GreggJ

    Skate,

    Kerry claimed during the debates that he persoanlly was “pro-life” but didn’t feel that it was right to “impose his values” based on his “religious beliefs” on others. AS has correctly been demonstrated by many on this thread, Kerry and others on the left have no problem acknowledging that their “faith” plays a vial role in their beliefs (redistributive taxation, welfare, anti-death penalty for murderers adn rapists, etc….) but for some reason feel it is inappropriate to impose the most important of all values “the right to life” for developing human beings in the womb. Saying that they persoanlly oppose abortion because it kills a human being but has no probelm with others “choosing to do so” is analogous to somebody being persoanlly opposed to slavery but conceding that although they are persoanlly opposed to slavery, that they don’t have the right to “impose” their values on others. This line of reasoning at this point in history is about as ludicrous as it gets.

    Also, Skate is incorrect in his assertion that Bush is a “cafeteria Christian.” I very much doubt that Skate has ever read the Bible, but there is a clear scriptural basis for the death penalty and war, in both Old and New Testaments. Claiming, as many on the left have done, that the Bible also serves as a foundation for welfare and redistributive taxation (read: Communism) is risible. The left’s latest pathetic failed attempt at getting in touch with the “values’ voters they claim have been hi-jacked by the “radical Christian right.” The right to life for all innocent human beings is at the very core of Judeo-Christian thought. Bush is unambiguous about this and the American people know it, but the phony Catholics like Kerry and Kennedy are frauds no matter how one slices it- and the American people have figured it out. The so-called party of the “little guy” can’t even back legislation that would protect the most fragile and defenseless of all human beings- babies in the womb. Abortion-on-demand is the left’s sacrament. It will also prove to be the death knell of a once decent party. And I for one am happy as a clam to see them go down into the “ash heap” of American history! What a pathetic party into which the Dems have devolved.

    Gregg J “Pundit Reveiw Radio”

  • Skate

    Gregg J wrote “Claiming, as many on the left have done, that the Bible also serves as a foundation for welfare and redistributive taxation (read: Communism) is risible.”

    One thing is very clear in the New Testament. Jesus emphasized that surrendering personal wealth and caring for the poor are vital aspects of what his followers should do. That is the opposite of the values of the current Republican Party, who support personal, duty-free wealth above all else and care not a whit for the poor.

    “Also, Skate is incorrect in his assertion that Bush is a “cafeteria Christian.” I very much doubt that Skate has ever read the Bible, but there is a clear scriptural basis for the death penalty and war, in both Old and New Testaments.”

    The Catholic Church says you are wrong, Gregg J. They condemn the death penalty and war.

    Gregg J assumes much. Primarily, he assumes that to read the bible is to agree with Gregg J. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is no single religion called Christianity nor is their anything resembling an agreement on how to interpret the bible. There isn’t even agreement on which commandments make up the Ten Commandments. Christian denominations can’t even agree on how much of the Old Testament they have to follow.

    And Gregg J completely ignored the fact that Arnold Schwarzenegger is a pro choice Republican Catholic, yet conservatives haven’t gleefully requested that he be denied communion. Gregg J rips into Kerry and Kenedy and, naturally, gives Arnold Schwarzenegger a free pass. How convenient and hypocritical–which are getting to be a Republican themes.

    Two things Gregg J wrote contradict each other. “The right to life for all innocent human beings is at the very core of Judeo-Christian thought.” and “…there is a clear scriptural basis for the death penalty and war, in both Old and New Testaments.” War and the death penalty both result in the inevitable collateral death of innocents. Gregg J says that “Bush is unambiguous about [protecting the lives of innocents]” but GWBs support for the death penalty and the War in Iraq under false pretenses show that GWB’s “pro life” stance to be very ambiguous indeed.

    While Gregg J may have read the bible, it is clear that he doesn’t understand the complexity of Christianity nor what it means to be consistent.

  • http://punditrevewi.com Gregg J

    Skate,

    "One thing is very clear in the New Testament. Jesus emphasized that surrendering personal wealth and caring for the poor are vital aspects of what his followers should do. That is the opposite of the values of the current Republican Party, who support personal, duty-free wealth above all else and care not a whit for the poor."

    Quote me the verses that show that Jesus advocated the type of "progressive" socialism espoused by the majority of liberal Democrats today. By the way the best way to "care for the poor" is to provide them a job not a handout or some govt welfare program. Republicans have been doing this for years. Ever hear about supply side fiscal policy? The poor grew under Carter not Reagan. Remember that. Only the top 1% under Carter saw any real income growth.

    "The Catholic Church says you are wrong, Gregg J. They condemn the death penalty and war. "

    Did I even mention the "Catholic Church"? And although the Catholic shurch condemns the death penalty, rank and file members are split on this issue. As for war, the Catholic church has recognized that some military force is required (America's response to Nazism is one of amny examples).

    "There is no single religion called Christianity nor is their anything resembling an agreement on how to interpret the bible. There isn’t even agreement on which commandments make up the Ten Commandments. Christian denominations can’t even agree on how much of the Old Testament they have to follow."

    Are you kidding me? You can call me live on the show anytime and we can discuss this in depth (www.punditreveiw.com) info on our site. Bring your "A" game Skate.

    "…but GWBs support for the death penalty and the War in Iraq under false pretenses show that GWB’s “pro life” stance to be very ambiguous indeed."

    False pretenses? Have you read the 9-11 Report? Enough with the "Bush lied shibboleth." Call us live and we can have it out on air. I will give you as much time as you need. I look forward to hearing from you. http://www.punditreveiw.com.

    Bring your "A" game.