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Land: Much opposition to Ashcroft amounts to ‘religious profiling’

WASHINGTON (BP)–The opposition to John Ashcroft’s nomination as attorney general is being fueled largely by “an anti-evangelical bigotry” comparable to the racial profiling practiced against blacks, Southern Baptist ethics leader Richard Land says.

Four days of hearings by the Senate Judiciary Committee on President George W. Bush’s nomination of Ashcroft closed Jan. 19. Though some senators rejected charges they were questioning Ashcroft’s suitability because of his conservative Christian convictions, Land said the former senator from Missouri is being held to a different standard than even another member of the Senate.

“Much of the opposition to attorney general-designate Ashcroft amounts to nothing less than religious profiling,” said Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “In the atrocious practice of racial profiling, the police stop people merely because they are African American. In religious profiling, people are dismissed and disqualified merely because they are evangelical Christians.

“It is reprehensible that some of John Ashcroft’s critics accuse him of not being able to enforce laws that he personally disagrees with because of his moral convictions,” he said.

“Senator [Joseph] Lieberman’s Orthodox Jewish synagogue segregates the congregation by sex. No one assumes as a result that Senator Lieberman would discriminate against women in his public service role. Why then do Ashcroft’s critics assume that his evangelical convictions would cause him to ignore or violate the law?,” Land asked.

“The answer is as simple as it is ugly — an anti-evangelical bigotry that descends to the level of religious profiling, which is every bit as wrong as racial profiling.”

He fears such critics “are judging John Ashcroft by their own standards, because they so often ignore, mangle and dismiss laws they don’t agree with,” Land said. “John Ashcroft is a man of integrity, and John Ashcroft will enforce the law as it is written, even if he disagrees with it. Until recent years, that is what we expected attorney generals to do.”

Lieberman, a Democrat from Connecticut, talked about God and discussed his Jewish beliefs during his fall campaign as the running mate for Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore.

Ashcroft, a member of an Assemblies of God church, has openly confessed his Christian faith and his desire to apply it to his public life. His opposition to abortion, homosexual rights, certain racial desegregation plans and a federal judgeship for Ronnie White, a black judge from Missouri, have been cited as reasons for a vehement campaign against his confirmation similar to the one that succeeded in defeating Robert Bork’s nomination to the Supreme Court in the late 1980s.

Though Sen. Edward Kennedy, D.-Mass., and some other Democrats on the committee harshly criticized Ashcroft in the hearings, it appears the nominee has majority support for confirmation. No Republican has announced his opposition, and two Democrats, Sens. Robert Byrd of West Virginia and Zell Miller of Georgia, have declared their intention to vote for their former colleague.

Kennedy has threatened a filibuster, and 60 votes will be needed to end such a procedure. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R.-Miss., has predicted 60 to 70 senators will vote for Ashcroft. A vote in committee has not been scheduled.

Abortion rights organizations such as Planned Parenthood Federation of America, homosexual rights groups such as the Human Rights Campaign and liberal civil rights advocates such as People for the American Way have participated in the effort to defeat Ashcroft.

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission endorsed Ashcroft for confirmation. Other supporters of Ashcroft include National Right to Life, Focus on the Family, American Family Association, Concerned Women for America, Family Research Council and the American Center for Law and Justice.