Oct 12, 2005

The Bush administration’s efforts to promote Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers by highlighting her evangelical Christianity is an appalling and hypocritical use of religion, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, “We’re picking a Supreme Court justice here, not a Sunday school teacher. President Bush and his allies should be talking about Miers’ knowledge of the Constitution, not the Bible.”

In remarks at the White House today, President George W. Bush defended his staffers’ references to Miers’ faith.

“People are interested to know why I picked Harriet Miers,” he said. “They want to know Harriet Miers’ background. They want to know as much as they possibly can before they form opinions. Part of Harriet Miers’ life is her religion.”

AU’s Lynn said he has been concerned for some time that the Bush administration has been using a religious litmus test to select federal court nominees. On June 25, 2002, Bush said he would select judges who “understand that our rights were derived from God.”

Said Lynn, “Any such religious selectivity by the president would violate Article VI of our Constitution, which forbids any religious test for public office. Did Bush pick Miers because of her religious viewpoint instead of her legal qualifications? If he did, that is a disservice to the Constitution and the diversity of the American people.”

White House operatives have been using Miers’ religion to persuade Relgious Right leaders to endorse her nomination.

In a radio address taped Tuesday, Focus on the Family founder James C. Dobson recounted a conversation he had with White House strategist Karl Rove, during which Rove told Dobson of Miers’ strong religious views.

Dobson said Rove assured him Miers is “an evangelical Christian from a very conservative church, which is almost universally pro-life.”

The White House is apparently highlighting Miers’ church-going to other prominent religious conservatives. TV preacher Pat Robertson, breaking with other conservatives who have expressed concern over Miers’ scant track record, has repeatedly praised Miers on his “700 Club” program. On Oct. 5, Robertson stated that Miers “will be the first evangelical Christian who has been elevated to the Supreme Court in well over 70 years.”

Americans United’s Lynn accused the White House and the Religious Right of hypocrisy.

“We were told we weren’t even allowed to bring up the topic of religion when John G. Roberts was nominated for the Supreme Court,” Lynn said. “Anyone who did was quickly labeled a bigot.

“Now Bush and Rove are touting where Miers goes to church and using that as a selling point,” Lynn continued. “The hypocrisy is staggering.”

Lynn also blasted the Religious Right for playing along. “If a nominee’s personal religious views are off the table,” observed Lynn, “why am I not hearing howls of protest from Jerry Falwell, Tony Perkins, Jay Sekulow and others about this cynical exploitation of religion for crass political purposes?”

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.