Judicial Inquisition?: Senate Panel Turns To Extremists For More Court-Bashing

Just how extreme are social conservatives now residing -- and contemplating constitutional shenanigans -- in the U.S. Senate?

One day, we have Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) taking to the floor to rail wildly against federal judges, and on Wednesday we'll be treated to a Senate committee hearing on the Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA) that features a right-wing law professor who once wrote that, "The Myth of the Inquisition is just that: phony, made up, bogus."

Notre Dame Law School Professor Gerard V. Bradley, writing for Catholic.net under the headline "One Cheer for Inquisitions," maintained that the so-called "Myth of the Inquisition" was actually a Protestant tool to "turn people against revealed religion and, especially, the Roman Catholic Church."

Bradley's piece argued that today's federal courts are an Inquisition of sorts, or at least one similar to the supporters of the "Myth of the Inquisition." The federal courts, he insists, regularly overturn popular laws because those laws do not have a secular basis. He wrote that the "norm of invalidating laws which lack a secular purpose is entirely the product of judicial usurpations dating from 1947." (Bradley apparently means Everson v. Board of Education, the landmark Supreme Court decision upholding church-state separation.)

Bradley will be testifying before the Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Property Rights on April 13. The panel is headed by Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), one of the Senate's leading proponents of the federal anti-gay marriage amendment.

Brownback, a Religious Right favorite, also scheduled Brigham Young University law professor Lynn D. Wardle who wrote for National Review Online that not only does the prospect of gay marriage threaten "the core institution of marriage," but "imperils our very system of government."

Like Cornyn and other social conservatives in Congress, Profs. Bradley and Wardle argue that the Constitution must be amended because our federal courts are out of control and not responsive to majority wishes.

Bradley's written testimony before the Senate subcommittee has already been posted on its web site. In it, Bradley lambastes the Supreme Court for seeing itself as "the bulwark of minority interests, over and against what 'the people' prefer." He attacks the justices' 2003 ruling in Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down a Texas sodomy law, calling it "the classic circumstance of modern judicial intervention."

The Notre Dame law professor, who the Religion News Service credited with helping to write FMA, later argues in his posted testimony that judicial review is not "explicit in the Constitution," and definitely not the type of constitutional review that occurred in Lawrence.

In his early 2004 National Review Online article, Wardle also cites the Lawrence ruling and says it "underscores the dangerous propensity and growing trend of many judges to substitute" their own values for those of politicians and "the people."

In fact, it is rightist lawmakers whom Americans should truly be concerned about. The Founding Fathers intended the Supreme Court to serve as a constitutional bulwark protecting the rights of minorities in America. When politicians try to tear that bulwark down, we're all in trouble. The court's critics are beholden to radical Religious Right leaders who care not a wit for the Constitution, but only about ensuring heresies are punished.