NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Conservative leaders rallied against “activist” courts Aug. 14, calling for Americans to rein in a court system that has defied public opinion on a number of issues, including partial-birth abortion and Ten Commandments displays.
The 90-minute “Justice Sunday II” event at Nashville’s Two Rivers Baptist Church took place just three weeks before the Senate is scheduled to begin confirmation hearings on Supreme Court nominee John Roberts. But Justice Sunday speakers rarely mentioned Roberts, choosing instead to focus on past rulings by the Supreme Court out of step with Americans’ views.
“The court has imposed a radical social policy agenda on this nation, disregarding the voice of the American people and our elected representatives,” Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said.
Said Focus on the Family founder James Dobson: “It’s time to bring greater balance to the judiciary.”
More than 2,000 people attended the event, which was broadcast to churches and individuals across the nation on Sky Angel satellite TV, as well as on several Christian radio networks and the Internet. Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) aired it on tape-delay.
Leaders criticized court rulings that have overturned a partial birth-abortion ban, removed Ten Commandments displays from public settings and banned prayer at some public events.
It was the second “Justice Sunday” event this year. The first one, held in April, called for an end to the filibustering of judicial nominees.
Two Washington insiders — House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and former Sen. Zell Miller (D-Ga.) — spoke at the Nashville rally.
“[A]ll wisdom does not reside in nine persons in … black robes,” DeLay said. “… I have the utmost respect for the judicial branch of our government … but our respect and admiration does not grant judges the powers many have assumed in recent years.”
DeLay asserted that the Constitution gives the legislature, and not the courts, the sole power to make laws. He highlighted the push to legalize “gay marriage,” as well as the Supreme Court’s 2000 decision overturning Nebraska’s partial-birth abortion ban.
“Time and time again, proponents of these policies, which have little or no support in the elected branches of government … bypass the democratic process by way of activist courts,” he said. “Activist courts, in turn, impose new policies on our nation without passing a single bill through a single house of a single legislature.”
Miller, speaking in his famous sarcastic Georgia drawl, said the Supreme Court has handed down decisions Christians “simply cannot accept.”
“Each Christmas it kidnaps the baby Jesus … from the city square,” Miller said. “It has legalized the barbaric killing of unborn babies and is ready to discard — like an outdated hula hoop — the universal institution of marriage between a man and a woman.”
Dobson referred to the Supreme Court’s summer ruling striking down a Kentucky Ten Commandments display, noting that a Gallup poll showed 75 percent of Americans support such displays.
“America’s court system is tearing at the very fabric of this nation,” said Dobson, speaking via a taped message. “Almost all of the great moral and social issues of our time are decided not by the voters or their elected representatives … but by an unelected, unaccountable and often arrogant judiciary.”
At one point Perkins brought a catcher’s mitt on stage and stood behind an oversized baseball home plate several feet wide, drawing a parallel between an expanded zone and the Supreme Court’s “expanding” view of the Constitution.
“The court has expanded the Constitution to include the right to kill unborn children,” he said. “They’ve expanded the plate so that they can find this right to homosexual sodomy. What they’ve done is they’ve taken what the Constitution gave the legislature the right to say is a wild pitch, and they’ve called it a strike.”
But “when it comes to our religious freedoms,” Perkins said, the court has taken home plate “and made it even smaller.”
“They’ve said our children don’t have a right to pray [in public schools],” he said.
Jerry Sutton, pastor of Two Rivers Baptist, encouraged pastors to take the lead in the cultural battle.
“You are the leaders. You speak for God,” Sutton said.
Roberts’ nomination was a small part of the rally. DeLay said Roberts “seems to understand and appreciate the critical but limited role of the judicial system in our constitutional government.” Miller said Christians must “cover [the] confirmation process with a blanket of prayer.” Dobson said Roberts “looks like … a strict constructionist.”
“We need to defend his nomination,” Dobson said. “from the likes of … Ted Kennedy and Patrick Leahy and Joseph Biden and Dick Durbin and George Soros and Ralph Neas.”
Several speakers alluded to criticism the event received from liberal organizations. A handful of protesters outside the church building held signs, with one reading, “Democracy not Theocracy.” Other signs backed abortion rights.
“We do not claim the right to speak for every American, but we do claim the right to speak,” Perkins said.
Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, said conservatives do support the “separation of church and state.”
“What that means, though, is that the state cannot establish a church or prevent the free exercise of religion,” he said.
Chuck Colson, president of Prison Fellowship Ministries, encouraged Christians not to become angry. He told the story of a pastor in Wisconsin who had one of his services interrupted by homosexual activists tossing condoms on the altar. Asked by the media why he wasn’t angry, the minister responded, “I have no more reason to be mad at them than I would a blind man stepping on my foot.”
Said Colson: “We have no business getting mad at the other side.”
DVD copies of Justice Sunday II can be ordered online at www.JusticeSunday.com, or by calling 800-225-4008. In addition, “Save the Court” resource kits are available. They include a DVD of the event, a pamphlet on judicial activism, a pamphlet with excerpts from Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissent in the Kentucky Ten Commandments case, and five Ten Commandments book covers.