Monday, October 10, 2005

Harriet the Cipher: Affirmative Action for Evangelicals

This column was edited strangely by The Tribune, so I'm sending it as I wrote it instead of how it got printed. What got deleted in the newspaper was the third sentence in the fourth paragraph ("We have learned that she belongs to Valley View Christian Church….") and the entire next-to-last paragraph ("People who think the sky is falling…."). I don't understand why my editor decided to cut that stuff, but he did. The headline was good, however, so I've kept it. But you might side with my editor, and can read the as-published version here.

Don't you feel for those better-qualified male atheists who got passed over for this job? Where's their Jesse Helms?

The Miers Nomination

East Valley Tribune, Oct. 9, 2005

Instead of Harriet the Spy, Bush gives us Harriet the Cipher. His choice for the Supreme Court is a lawyer seemingly unknown to anybody but Bush and his inner circle.

But does it bother anyone else that when conservatives questioned Miers’ relative paucity of qualifications and the total lack of her writings on any issue of constitutional interpretation, the initial White House response was to organize national conference calls to discuss her religious beliefs and church membership?

(Please note that it’s conservatives who are questioning her qualifications; Democrats may have questions, too, but right now we’re more focused on holding coats so the other guys can fight among themselves. We’re also waiting for those GOP senators who thought it was, like, totally improper to ask John Roberts questions about judicial philosophy are now demanding that Harriet Miers spell out just exactly what she believes before they can vote to confirm her.)

Faced with conservatives’ questions, the Bush administration arranged for Justice Nathan Hecht, who sits on the Texas Supreme Court and who is described as her “on-again, off-again boyfriend,” to discuss Miers’ religious beliefs. We have been instructed that she is no longer a Catholic and instead is now an evangelical Protestant. We have learned that she belongs to Valley View Christian Church, and have been treated, at some length and with obvious White House involvement, to descriptions of her church as a place where pastors preach abortion is murder, homosexuality is a sin, and the Bible is the literal truth.

It’s also worth noting that the White House presented endorsements not from distinguished lawyers, but rather from the National Right to Life Committee. Can we dispense with talking about Democrats’ "extremism" on a woman’s right to choose, please? Republicans clearly have their own “litmus test” that’s just as strict, if not stricter, than the Democrats. The only difference is that their position has less support among Americans than my side’s.

So we know nothing about how Miers might decide cases before the Court, and when asked about her qualifications for the job, we’re told about her religion, her faith in Jesus, her church membership, her adult baptism, and her service on her church’s missions committee and as a religious class teacher. In other words, the Constitution may prohibit a religious test for public office, but we are instructed by the White House and its friends that Miers’ religion is her qualification for her position.

It’s also odd how conservatives believe in affirmative action, provided they benefit from it. A representative of the American Center for Law and Justice said that evangelicals need “to see someone with our positions put on the court.” Miers may be taking a job away from a better-qualified male atheist, but it’s important that evangelical Protestants — who are so underrepresented in American life that they include only the current President, his predecessor, the Senate and House leadership, and pretty much any Sun Belt politician in office — get additional jobs reserved just for them.

People who think the sky is falling because of affirmative action in higher education are suddenly struck dumb at this White House set-aside for evangelicals. In case you think that’s an exaggeration of what’s happening, imagine if Harriet Miers were Jewish. Would her religion be a qualification for her job?

Conservatives decry group identification, the culture of victimization, and any form of affirmative action. They demand that the best-qualified person get the job, and that blacks and Hispanics or Native Americans should just stop complaining about discrimination already. But now that President Bush has created his very own little set-aside program based on both gender and religion, where are their voices?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm Liberal, and somewhat relieved by her nomination. It could have been a known devil. I've heard smidgens of humanity and moderation ( the Federalist Society), and we will never get to refuse two in a row. I sadly say that we better take her.