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April 5, 2005

GOP Leaders Threaten Independent Judiciary

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

It appears that another top Republican official has leveled charges that all but threaten the rule of law in this country.

Today's Washington Post reports that Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) -- who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee which evaluates and votes on Supreme Court nominations -- appeared to justify violence against judges on the Senate floor yesterday, asserting that attacks may be explained by judges' "ideological decisions."

Cornyn said, "It causes a lot of people, including me, great distress to see judges use the authority that they have been given to make raw political or ideological decisions.... And I wonder whether there may be some connection between the perception ... where judges are making political decisions yet are unaccountable to the public, that it builds up and builds up and builds up to the point where some people engage in, engage in violence."

Cornyn's comments come on the heels of Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's apparent threats against judges over rulings in the Terri Schiavo case. According to DeLay's own Internet site, his March 31st statement notes that Schiavo's death "happened because our legal system did not protect the people who need protection most, and that will change. The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior, but not today."

"It is time to take Republican extremism and dangerous GOP rhetoric seriously, because it threatens the judiciary and in turn the very rule of law in our country," said National Jewish Democratic Council Executive Director Ira N. Forman. "Sadly, these reckless statements -- in which Tom DeLay directly threatened judges, and John Cornyn seemingly tried to justify tragic attacks against judges -- are only the most recent examples that extremist rhetoric is not just idle talk: it has very real consequences. It jeopardizes the separation of powers and the rule of law in America.

"We've repeatedly decried the dangerous far-right rhetoric of top GOP leaders, and sharply criticized extremist language such as the text of the Texas GOP platform that calls America a 'Christian nation' and describes 'the myth of the separation of church and state,'" Forman said. "Our point has always been that such phrases are not just empty expressions; words have real meaning and a genuine impact on our society and our government. In short, as the Texas GOP platform goes, so go top Texas GOP officials like DeLay and Cornyn; and as these top Texas officials go, so goes the heart and soul of the national Republican Party.

"Indeed, DeLay and Cornyn are hardly the lone GOP voices trying to bully the judicial branch of government into submission," Forman continued. "A far-right Internet site,, declares that 'activist judges are undermining democracy, devastating families and assaulting Judeo-Christian morality.' Yet this is not a fringe group; it clearly has the support of top mainstream GOP officials. According to the site, speaking before the group's Washington conference later this week will be GOP leaders such as House Majority Leader DeLay, Senator and possible GOP presidential hopeful Sam Brownback (R-KS), Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) and others.

"The bottom line is that rhetoric has consequences. In this case, GOP rhetoric challenging the authority of the judicial branch threatens the rule of law, and it must stop. The time has come to take GOP extremism seriously, because it comes at a grave cost," Forman added.