Invasion Of The Constitution Snatchers: Bush Judges Scare The Halloween Out Of Me

Bush has engaged in judicial mischief that may damage our rights into the foreseeable future.

It's Halloween, so I'm going to scare the bejeezus out of you.

* Judge William Pryor, U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. A former Alabama attorney general, Pryor went to court to defend notorious Chief Justice Roy Moore's 2.5-ton Commandments monument in the state judicial building, telling a rally that God had chosen Christians "to save our country and save our courts."

* Judge Janice Rogers Brown, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Brown says the United States is in a religious battle of Civil War proportions, has questioned whether the Bill of Rights applies to the states and has criticized the Supreme Court for relying on that "rather uninformative metaphor of the 'wall of separation of church and state.'"

* Judge Michael W. McConnell, U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. Described in The New York Times after his nomination as "an important architect of a shift in American law away from strict separation of church and state," McConnell has expressed support for tax aid to religion, bitterly opposed reproductive rights and called for more religious influence in public schools and public life.

There! Isn't showing you a short list of President George W. Bush's appeals court appointees much, much scarier than jumping out from behind a door at you wearing a Freddy Krueger mask?!

Many Americans know that Bush has placed ultra-conservatives Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito on the nation's highest bench. But many don't realize the lasting damage Bush has done at the appeals court and district court levels.

Earlier this week, The New York Times reported that Bush "has transformed the nation's federal appeals courts, advancing a conservative legal revolution that began nearly three decades ago under President Ronald Reagan."

"On Oct. 6," The Times noted, "Mr. Bush pointed with pride to his record at a conference sponsored by the Cincinnati chapter of the Federalist Society, the elite network for the conservative legal movement. He noted that he had appointed more than a third of the federal judiciary expected to be serving when he leaves office, a lifetime-tenured force that will influence society for decades and that represents one of his most enduring accomplishments. While a two-term president typically leaves his stamp on the appeals courts – Bill Clinton appointed 65 judges, Mr. Bush 61 – Mr. Bush's judges were among the youngest ever nominated and are poised to have an unusually strong impact."

The newspaper added, "Republican-appointed judges, most of them conservatives, are projected to make up about 62 percent of the bench next Inauguration Day, up from 50 percent when Mr. Bush took office. They control 10 of the 13 circuits, while judges appointed by Democrats have a dwindling majority on just one circuit."

Many of these judges are looking for every opportunity to roll back precedents safeguarding church-state separation and individual rights. Just this week, Pryor wrote the majority opinion in a decision upholding a Georgia county's policy of opening its meetings with sectarian prayer.

McConnell, meanwhile, has ruled in favor of public funding for pervasively sectarian colleges. He has also helped push a case to the Supreme Court that may allow a local government to prefer one religious symbol over others – displaying a Ten Commandments monument favored by the community majority but rejecting the code of a minority faith.

In June, as The Times notes, the 8th Circuit voted 7-4 to uphold a South Dakota law requiring doctors to tell women that abortions "terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique living human being." Bush had appointed six of the seven judges that made the ruling.

For most people, the frightening happenings on Halloween are all in good fun with no lasting harm done. Bush, on the other hand, has engaged in judicial mischief that may damage our rights into the foreseeable future. That's something to be really scared of.