February 2004 Church & State | People & Events

A member of a Florida commission that helps select state court judges has inappropriately asked nominees about their religious beliefs and should be removed from office, Americans United charged last month.

The Miami Daily Business Review reported Jan. 8 that Broward Judicial Nomination Commission (JNC) member O'Neal Dozier has asked several candidates for Broward County judgeships inappropriate questions about their religious beliefs, such as whether they attend church and are "God-fearing." Several of those judicial nominees complained about those types of questions.

Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, sent a letter to Gov. Jeb Bush Jan. 14 calling on him to fire Dozier.

"Dozier's overt religious bigotry is wholly unacceptable and he must no longer be allowed an official role in the selection of judges in Florida," Lynn wrote. "It is appalling that in 2004 judicial nominees are being subjected to an inquisition. Religious litmus tests are unconstitutional in America."

In addition to grilling candidates about religion, Dozier has also been accused of questioning judicial candidates about their personal lives and their stands on controversial social issues. Broward County Assistant Public Defender Jayme Cassidy said Dozier asked her about her status as a single mother during a screening interview in Fort Lauderdale.

Cassidy told the newspaper the question made her angry, and she told Dozier it was inappropriate.

"I have never allowed being a single mother to interfere with my job," Cassidy told the Miami Daily Business Review. "I'm not a single parent by choice. It's not my fault." (Dozier denies having asked the question.)

Another candidate was asked his opinions on the Supreme Court's decision last summer that overturned a Texas sodomy law.

According to the newspaper, Dozier, who serves as pastor of the Worldwide Christian Center in Pompano Beach and is active in Republican Party politics, said such questions are appropriate.

"I am totally against that ruling," he told the newspaper. "We cannot have a judge who feels sodomy is OK."

Dozier has repeatedly expressed an intolerant and theocratic approach to government. According to a report in the New Times Broward-Palm Beach late last year, Dozier told a Religious Right gathering, "We as Christians must take control of the government. We should be the ones in charge of the government." (See "Onward, Christian Soldiers," January 2004 Church & State.)

According to the more recent Daily Business Review article, Dozier said, "There is no such animal as separation of church and state in the Constitution."