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October 31, 2005

Alito, the GOP, and the Far Right

Listed in: Separation of Church and State, NJDC News, Press Releases

With his approval ratings sagging into the thirties, the president this morning demonstrated yet again that George W. Bush and the GOP have never been more dependent on the far-right wing for support.

Just listen to the words of Nina Totenberg -- a non-partisan legal affairs correspondent and veteran court-watcher -- on National Public Radio this morning:

"If Judge Alito is confirmed, the Court will move dramatically, dramatically to the right. ...There is no question where he is; he's been on the Court for fifteen years, there is an established record... and it's going to show a very, very conservative judge."

Following the bungled nomination of Harriet Miers, ongoing investigations that have resulted in the indictment of a top White House official, and a failed federal response to hurricane relief -- in which the federal government even encouraged Americans to donate to Pat Robertson, this president could have appealed this morning to the vast majority of Americans.

But he did not.

Instead, he chose to placate the most extreme conservative elements of his party -- to the detriment of the great majority of this country.

This morning's nomination is just the latest chapter in the deepening commitment by George W. Bush and today's GOP to appease the far-right; below we briefly examine an assortment of recent examples of this close relationship.

1. The Nomination of Judge Samuel Alito

In replacing retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who cast key deciding votes in favor of a woman's right to choose and the separation of church and state, George W. Bush opted not to nominate a highly-qualified woman -- nor did he choose to appeal to most Americans. Instead, he selected a nominee to appeal to the far-right wing; one need only listen to the reaction of the most extreme elements of the conservative coalition to demonstrate this:

** The Reverend Rob Schenck -- self-described "missionary to Capitol Hill," and president of "Faith and Action" -- said this morning, "From what we know, Judge Alito has a proven track record of respect for the original intent of the framers of the constitution when it comes to the sanctity of life, the sanctity of marriage, and the public acknowledgment of God. We are calling on Christian people of every tradition to pray for Judge Alito and the members of the US Senate as the confirmation process begins, and for the future of the Supreme Court."

** "Priests for Life" released a statement this morning in which National Director Fr. Frank Pavone commented, "We also welcome the debate over 'conservative values.' The nation is in a culture war, and there's no need to hide that fact. Some Senators will oppose any change on the Court that would threaten so-called 'abortion rights.' But the American people are already deciding that their Constitution does not permit dismembering children. It is inevitable that the Court will catch up."

** The ultra-conservative American Center for Law and Justice said this morning that the nomination "is a wise choice and clearly shows that President Bush has once again fulfilled his promise of choosing nominees to the Supreme Court who are in the mold of Justices Scalia and Thomas."

For detailed information on Judge Alito's history and past rulings, click here to see "The Record of Samuel Alito: A Preliminary Review" by People for the American Way.

2. Sen. McCain: Yet Another GOP Supporter of Intelligent Design

Even more moderate Republicans now seem to be in the thrall of the radical right.

Arizona Senator John McCain -- known for his straight talk, and occasionally taking on his party and bucking the Bush Administration -- recently proclaimed that religion should be taught as science in our public schools in the model of "intelligent design," joining George W. Bush, Senator Bill Frist, and other top Republican leaders in doing so.

The Arizona Daily Star reported that McCain "sided with the president" on "teaching intelligent design in schools;" McCain "told the Star that, like Bush, he believes 'all points of view' should be available to students studying the origins of mankind."

McCain's remarks only further demonstrate just how deep, far, and wide the ties are between today's Republican Party, top GOP leaders, and the religious far-right.

3. Evangelizing in the Military

In another example of the powerful ties between the far-right and key Republican leaders, today's Washington Post reports that "Evangelical Christian groups, members of Congress and a senior military chaplain are pressing the Air Force to soften or drop its new restrictions on public prayers and evangelizing in the armed forces."

Following deeply disturbing allegations of proselytizing and religious intolerance at the Air Force Academy, the Air Force recently released guidelines on religious freedom in the military. Ultra-conservative religious groups such as The Christian Coalition and Focus on the Family have been working closely with some of the most conservative members on Capitol Hill to change or drop the guidelines; a heavily Republican group of House members recently sent George W. Bush a letter outlining their concerns.

What is of greatest concern to these conservative House members? Keeping exclusively Christian prayer at public military events, for one thing. According to the Post, "One of the main complaints from evangelical groups and members of Congress is that the guidelines could stop Christian chaplains from praying in the name of Jesus at public events. 'The current demand in the guidelines for so-called 'non-sectarian' prayers is merely a euphemism declaring that prayers will be acceptable only so long as they censor Christian beliefs,' said the letter to Bush from 70 House members."

Clearly the separation of church and state is not a key concern to the 70 extreme-conservative members of Congress who signed this letter.