NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Christians must make their voices heard in the coming days if Senate Republican leaders are to be successful in breaking the filibustering of judicial nominees, Focus on the Family’s James Dobson said April 18.
The Senate is expected to vote soon on a controversial rule change that would prevent the filibustering of judges. As of now, a nominee must receive a super-majority of 60 votes to overcome a filibuster — even if the nominee has the simple majority of 51 votes needed for confirmation. Supporters of the rule change say the filibustering of judges is unconstitutional.
The rule change would take only a simple majority of 51 votes.
“It will not come to pass without a response — a massive response — from people of faith and those who hold to conservative views,” Dobson said on his radio program.
In many ways, the rule change attempt is a watershed moment for Christian conservatives, who have complained for years about the liberal bent of the judiciary as they watched the courts legalize abortion, ban organized prayer in schools and rule against Ten Commandments displays. They fear a federal court eventually will legalize same-sex “marriage.”
The filibuster has allowed liberal senators to block some of President Bush’s more conservative nominees. Often, abortion is the dividing issue.
“Unless this effort to end the filibuster … is passed, then [liberal rulings are] going to continue and we’ll still have the same problem we do with the liberal judiciary today,” Dobson said.
Hoping to inform and energize Christians for the upcoming political battle, pro-family leaders are holding a “Justice Sunday” rally April 24 at Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky. Scheduled speakers include Dobson, Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, Prison Fellowship’s Charles Colson and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s R. Albert Mohler Jr. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and retired judge Charles Pickering also are scheduled to speak. Pickering was one of the judges filibustered by Senate Democrats until Bush used a recess appointment to place him on the bench.
The rally is being sponsored by Focus on the Family Action and Family Research Council Action. It begins at 7 p.m. Eastern and will be broadcast to individuals and churches nationwide over the Internet and via satellite. Perkins is encouraging pastors to use their Sunday evening service to watch the rally. (Information on how the rally can be viewed is available at www.frc.org).
“This is not something that the evangelical community and churches have paid a lot of attention to,” Perkins said of the Senate filibuster. “… If we want to change [judicial rulings], then we’ve got to stop this blockade to the courts.”
Perkins and other pro-family leaders assert that the filibuster has targeted people of faith — an assertion that Democrats say is not true.
But conservatives point to the Democrats’ treatment in 2003 of then-appeals court nominee William Pryor, a Catholic and a staunch pro-lifer. Pryor has called Roe v. Wade “the worst abomination in the history of constitutional law” and said that is has led “to the slaughter of millions of innocent, unborn children. That’s my personal belief.”
During hearings Democrats consistently criticized his “deeply held beliefs,” leading some Republicans to wonder if a Catholic nominee who openly adhered to the church’s teachings on abortion could ever win confirmation.
According to National Review Online, at least three Democratic senators criticized Pryor’s beliefs:
— New York’s Charles Schumer.
“Based on the comments Attorney General Pryor has made on this subject [abortion], I have got some real concerns that he cannot [judge fairly on abortion-related issues], because he feels these views so deeply and so passionately,” Schumer said.
— Massachusetts’ Edward Kennedy: “I think the very legitimate issue in question with your nomination is whether you have an agenda, that many of the positions which you have taken reflect not just an advocacy but a very deeply held view and a philosophy….” Kennedy said.
— California’s Dianne Feinstein: “Virtually in every area you have extraordinarily strong views which continue and come out in a number of different ways,” she said. “Your comments about Roe make one believe, could he really, suddenly, move away from those comments and be a judge?”
Those “views,” social conservatives argue, are religious beliefs.
“We must break this filibuster against people of faith if we’re going to be able to move forward in impacting this culture,” Perkins said.
Focus on the Family Action has begun a series of newspaper and radio advertisements, asking people in various states to call their senator and urge a stop to the filibuster.
Nineteen senators are targeted: Arkansas’ Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor, Maine’s Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, Nebraska’s Ben Nelson and Chuck Hagel, North Dakota’s Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan, Indiana’s Evan Bayh and Richard Lugar, Florida’s Bill Nelson, New Mexico’s Jeff Bingaman, South Dakota’s Tim Johnson, Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu, Virginia’s John Warner, Colorado’s Ken Salazar, Nevada’s Harry Reid, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and Oregon’s Gordon Smith).
Lugar said April 17 that he is leaning toward supporting a rule change. Hagel said he is undecided.