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Freethought Today · Vol. 23 No. 1 January/February 2006

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

Alito Confimation Would Tip Court

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Image by Seymour Chwast

Mainstream media downplayed or outright suppressed the fact that if Samuel Alito is confirmed to the Supreme Court, right-wing Roman Catholics will become a majority on the 9-member body. Alito would join seated Roman Catholics Scalia, Thomas (a convert), Roberts and the slightly less right-wing Kennedy.

"A religious litmus test is being imposed in the selection of Supreme Court candidates--they must be pre-approved by the Religious Right, as the Harriet Miers debacle proves," said Foundation co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor.

Alito has won rave reviews from such religious-right groups as Committee for Justice, which ran ads touting his conservatism, the Catholic group Fidelis, and the fundamentalist pressure groups American Family Association and Focus on the Family.

Religious conservatives held "Justice Sunday III" in early January in Alito's home state of Pennsylvania to stir support for his nomination through simulcasts to Christian churches across the country.

Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Penn., a right-wing Roman Catholic, called Alito's confirmation crucial to the court, because "liberal judges" are "destroying traditional morality, creating a new moral code and prohibiting any dissent." Also speaking to the crowd of 600 at the Greater Exodus Baptist Church were Rev. Jerry Falwell and James Dobson of Focus on the Family.

The church's prominent African-American preacher, Rev. Herbert H. Lusk III, rallied the crowd to support "the original intent of God Almighty" to oppose abortion and a "redefinition of marriage." Lusk, a Bush supporter, received more than $1 million in federal grants under the "faith-based initiative," according to the Washington Post (Jan. 9).

Bizarrely, three Christian ministers publicly "blessed" the doors of the hearing room of the Senate Judiciary Committee on January 5, saying that God "certainly needs to be involved" in the confirmation process. They sneaked into the room itself to "apply oil to all the seats," Rev. Rob Schenck told the Wall Street Journal (Jan. 5). Schenck, an evangelical, is president of the National Clergy Council in D.C. Also participating was Rev. Patrick Mahoney, with the notorious Christian Defense Coalition, which opposes legal abortion, gay rights, and supports public prayer. They were joined by Grace Nwachukwu, of Faith and Action, reading Psalms, kneeling to recite the Lord's Prayer and marking a cross in oil on the door.

The progressive Alliance for Justice court-watchers maintain that Alito has "tried to weaken church-state separation." Among his opinions: seeking to allow Child Evangelism Fellowship to provide "information" on after-school meetings to children, and writing (in a dissent) that a kindergartner's rights were violated when a school removed his Thanksgiving poster thanking Jesus. In another dissent, he would have permitted high school seniors to elect a student to deliver a graduation prayer.

Alito upheld a holiday display in front of City Hall in Jersey City, N.J., featuring a creche, menorah, Christmas tree and plastic Frosty the Snowman. Last year he voted that an evangelical Christian group had "free speech" rights to hand out fliers on school property inviting students to attend bible study.

As a member of the 3rd U.S. Court of Appeals, Alito voted to force a woman to notify her husband before obtaining an abortion, even in instances of rape or abuse. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the swing-voter whom Alito would replace, overturned the restrictions Alito endorsed, writing: "Women do not lose their constitutionally protected liberty when they marry."

In 1985, Alito wrote on an application to become deputy assistant to the Attorney General that "the Constitution does not protect a right to abortion." While working in the Solicitor General's office, Alito wrote a memo urging a strategy of incremental attacks on Roe v. Wade, which is how many feminists fear Roe will be de facto overturned.