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FIRST-PERSON: It’s time for Christians to get in the game

JACKSON, Miss. (BP)–Christian pro-lifers need not apply.

That’s the message a great many people across the country are concluding is really behind last week’s rejection by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee of Charles Pickering’s nomination to the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

Pickering, a U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of Mississippi and a member of First Baptist Church, Laurel, is a former two-term president of the Mississippi Baptist Convention (MBC). He has also served in a number of other MBC capacities, including as parliamentarian at the convention’s annual meeting. He served on the Southern Baptist Convention’s Peace Committee many years ago when that group was active.

Pickering was nominated last year for the appellate post by President George W. Bush and awarded an exemplary rating by the American Bar Association. With his solid academic, professional, and civic credentials, he should have been a shoo-in for the job.

That is, until an unseemly coalition of baby killers and other extremist special interest groups took it upon themselves to prove him unfit for the lifetime appointment to the appeals court.

By the time Pickering’s hearings convened before the Judiciary Committee, he had been characterized as a racist, an inept jurist, and a Neanderthal bent on turning back women’s rights — including the “right to choose,” which is known in the real world as the infanticide of abortion.

Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest and most lucrative abortion provider, had this to say: “If the nomination of Judge Pickering is an indication of what we can expect with future Bush administration judicial nominees, then all his candidates should come with a warning label: ‘Beware… May Be Hazardous to Women’s Health and Civil Rights.'”

“We need judges committed to justice for women, not ideologues dedicated to turning back the clock,” stressed Kim Gandy, president of the decidedly pro-abortion National Organization for Women (NOW).

Senators opposed to Pickering’s nomination dispatched investigators to Mississippi to dig up dirt, even requesting The Baptist Record provide the texts of Pickering’s presidential addresses at the Mississippi Baptist Convention annual meetings.

The results were predictable. By the time of last Thursday’s vote, all 10 Democrats in the majority on the committee were prepared to vote against Pickering’s nomination.

To kill the nomination, however, they first had to poison Pickering’s reputation. In order to do that, they had resort to half-truths, out-of-context mischaracterizations, and personal destruction.

At one point, they even quoted one-half of a sentence in a Pickering ruling without quoting the second half, when doing so would have demolished their contention that he was unfit to serve as an appellate judge.

Another opposing senator complained of Pickering’s high reversal rate when his rulings were appealed — until one of his colleagues pointed out that Pickering’s reversal rate was below the national average for all federal judges.

Senator Richard Durbin (D.-Ill.), flatly stated that Pickering’s manhandling by the committee was payback for the way Republicans abused Democratic former President Bill Clinton’s judicial nominees when Republicans were in the majority.

After the nomination went down to defeat 10-9, however, Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R.-Miss.), speaking for the record on the floor of the Senate, made it clear that under the thin veneer of political excuses offered by the committee was the real reason for Pickering’s rejection: his deep religious convictions.

Lott’s observation is correct, but he could have added that opponents’ animosity for Pickering’s faith was matched by their animosity for his pro-life positions. That combination was simply too much for 10 senators to stomach.

So let the message go forth from the U.S. Senate that when it comes to public service, Christian pro-lifers need not apply.

If we’re not happy with that policy, we need to speak up and start working to change it. Are you ready? Now is not the time to stand on the sidelines.
Perkins is editor of the Baptist Record, Mississippi Baptists’ newsjournal, at www.mbcb.org.

    About the Author

  • William H. Perkins Jr.