Despite strong reservations among civil liberties activists, the Senate yesterday voted 51-46 to confirm the Bush administration's nomination of James Leon Holmes to a federal court in Arkansas, reports The New York Times. The extreme positions taken by Holmes in a number of strongly worded articles raised red flags for defenders of church-state separation about his willingness to uphold the Constitution.

In a 2002 address to the Society of Catholic Social Scientists in Ann Arbor, Mich., Holmes questioned the legitimacy of church-state separation, noting that "we are left with some unease about this notion that Christianity and the political order should be assigned to separate spheres." He went on to observe that "Christianity transcends the political order and cannot be subordinated to the political order." Suggesting that eventually religion and government would be one he said "the final reunion of Church and state will take place at the end of time, when Christ will claim definitive political power of all creation, inaugurating an entirely new society based on the supernatural."

By placing a man who questions church-state separation on the federal bench, the Senate has dealt a blow to the health of important American constitutional principles. In addition to his wariness toward separation of church and state, Holmes also rejects mainstream views on the role of women, reproductive rights and the rights of gays and lesbians.

"This is one of the most divisive nominations put forth by the Bush administration, and that is saying a lot," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. The Senate would have been wise to reject Holmes.