Thursday, June 3, 2010

American Religious Democracy

6/3/2010—A recent story is again raising the question of the role of religious belief in American politics. In the Los Angeles Times, Tim Rutter criticizes the group Better Courts Now for running a slate of conservative judicial candidates in the San Diego Primary. Here is how Rutter describes what is happening:

"[F]our sitting judges are being challenged by candidates hand-picked by an organization called Better Courts Now and backed by a coalition of evangelical pastors, an El Cajon gun store and opponents of reproductive choice and marriage equality. The organization was established by the late Rev. Don Hamer, who until his death two months ago was pastor of San Diego's Zion Christian Fellowship. He took a particularly active role in the campaign for Proposition 8 and, during the presidential election, produced a series of videos purporting to prove that Barack Obama was a secret Muslim."

Three of the four sitting judges have been given the highest possible rating by the local bar association while three of the four challengers have been rated unqualified (the fourth had too little of a legal record to be rated at all).

The challengers say that the courts do not reflect American values. Rutter writes that it is pretty clear what those values are by looking at the Zion Christian Fellowship website:

"The reason for our present dilemma is not ultimately assertive and demanding homosexuals, or biblically ignorant judges, or even a scripturally devoid electorate. It is ultimately a spiritually impotent church, which … allowed and caused ungodly persons to be elected, who in turn selected unbiblical judges."

Now I have to say that these criticisms of Better Courts Now ring particularly hollow from people who supported judicial action to require recognition of gay marriage in California. As Justice Scalia has said on many occasions, if judging is value judgment, how can you criticize people for wanting their values to represented? My only dispute with Justice Scalia is his pretense that his judging is not value judgment, but is objective. (Just where did the framers grant constitutional rights to corporations?).

Or to put this another way, what difference does it make that the people behind these challengers are religiously motivated? What if they opposed abortion and gay marriage
and supported gun rights for reasons having nothing to do with religion? Would that make this effort any more or less legitimate? Rutter’s criticism is another example of secularists trying to delegitimize the efforts of voters with whom they disagree on policy grounds to bring change through the ballot box. I wouldn’t vote for these judicial candidates either, but not because they are religious.

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