Monday, August 15, 2005

Just Us Rally Focuses on Blocking Gay Civil Rights

Christian fundamentalists gathered this weekend at Two Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee for an event they dubbed, Justice Sunday II-God Save the United States and this Honorable Court," which was sponsored by the Family Research Council. The event is the second in a series. The first gathering took place in Louisville, Kentucky, in April when the group celebrated the bi-partisan Senate agreement to end threats of filibuster against President Bush's judicial nominees. This weekend's event was billed as "an attempt to awaken Christians to the importance of appointments to the Supreme Court", but it also became a rally supporting John Roberts' nomination to the Supreme Court according to the Washington Post. The more aptly titled "Just Us" gathering also served as a rallying cry to block gay civil rights. And the usual suspects and your garden variety of hypocrites were on hand to foment more gay bigotry.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, an exterminator by trade, told the faithful that "left-leaning courts [are] imposing a 'judicial supremacy' over the country to implement liberal policies that cannot win a majority in the legislative process." As reported in the Washington Times, DeLay complained that leftist judges were imposing "new policies on our nation without a single bill passing through a single house of a single legislature." The Washington Times report continued, "Liberal rulings from upholding 'same sex marriage' to banning religious symbols on public property, were an attempt by courts to 'manipulate the public will' and 'impose their ideology on the unwilling masses.'" DeLay said, "Moral values that have defined the progress of human civilization for millenia are cast aside in favor of those espoused by a handful of unelected, life-time appointed judges." DeLay assured the "Just Us" crowd that Judge Roberts "appears to understand and appreciate the critical but limited role of the judicial system in our constitutional government."

Tom DeLay preaching to anyone about morals is a little like the pot calling the kettle black. A national embarrassment to the GOP, DeLay has been censored by the House ethics committee no fewer than three times for improper conduct as a member of Congress and is currently under investigation for further possible violations. Most inside observers also expect DeLay to be indicted soon as a result of an on-going FBI investigation of political corruption in the nation's capitol.

DeLay you may remember was highly critical of Terri Schiavo's husband for his efforts to fulfill her wishes and end her suffering after living in a vegetative state for years. As reported at Slate .com, DeLay argued that, in the absence of a living will, Shiavo's husband could not make that decision for her. He told reporters at the time, "It's not for any one of us to decide what her quality of life should be . . . It's not any one of us to decide whether she should live or die." But that is exactly what DeLay did when his father faced a similar fate 16 years earlier after suffering a tramatic brain injury in an accident that left him in a vegetative state. DeLay's father had no living will, but DeLay and other family members within days of his father's accident made the decision to withhold life-sustaining treatment. His mother reported that the only time he showed any sign of life was when one of his sons entered the room--his pulse would accelerate. His father died naturally, without delay or intervention by any meddling outsiders.

And what about the separation of powers DeLay claims to be fighting to maintain by reigning in judicial activists? When "Judge DeLay" decided he didn't like the decision of Florida's courts to allow withdrawal of artificial hydration and nutrition for Schiavo so she could die naturally, he decided that Congress should intervene and pass special legislation to protect Terri's "right to live." In explaining the need for the special legislation, DeLay, according to said, "Congress had to intervene rather than 'take it from just a few people that have decided whether she lives or dies. For one person in one state court to make this decision is too heavy. That's why it does take all of us to think this through, think about the Constitution and its protection of life'". Fortunately, DeLay's absurd and, in all probability, unconstitutional legislative effort to overturn the Florida court's decision failed. But that didn't stop DeLay from hurling personal insults at Schiavo's husband. He said, "I don't have a whole lot of respect for a man that has treated this woman in this way. … My question is: What kind of man is he?" The real question is: What kind of man was Tom DeLay to attack Schiavo for making the same decision he made for his father?

Yes, it wouldn't have been a conservative, Christian rally without words of wisdom from the anti-gay rights activist, Phyllis Schlaffly. Schlaffly, according to the Tennessean, told the Just Us folks, "We will not stand activist judges who legislate from the bench, who remake our culture . . . We will not tolerate judges who change the rules of our written Constitution." Of course, Schlaffly is the person largely credited with derailing the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution during the 1970s, which she claimed, in part, would pave the way for gay marriages. According to a Knight-Ridder report, Pat Robertson once said, "If it were not for this lady, we would have had homosexual rights written into the Constitution."

Knight-Ridder reported that a fews years ago, Schlaffly's oldest son, John, who is a 40-something attorney who still lives with his mother in her stately Alton, Illinois home, was outed by Queer World magazine. After he was outed, Schlaffly admitted that she had known her son was gay since he was very young, but that didn't change her view of homosexuals. She complained that the only reason people bring up her son being gay is to "embarrass [her]." The opinionated Schaffly said she didn't have a clue why her son was gay. "I don't know and he doesn't know,'' Schlafly said. "He thinks he's always been. But about this thing of being born gay, he doesn't know that. I don't know if anybody knows that.'' Remarkably, she insists that she believes gays are entitled to "equal rights", just not "preferential rights." What she means by "equal rights" is not at all clear given her fight against all significant gay civil rights efforts of her time.

The rejected Supreme Court nominee, Judge Robert H. Bork, speaking to the "Just Us" folks, warned that "the high court has defined homosexuality as 'a constitutional right . . . and once homosexuality is defined as a constitutional right, there is nothing the states can do about it, nothing the people can do about it." Interestingly, Bork has always insisted that his views from the standpoint of judicial interpretation were "neutral", particularly on matters of religion. His participation at such a highly charged gathering of Christian fundamentalists, hell-bent on appointing judges who are willing to impose their narrow religious views on all Americans calls into questions his prior claim of neutrality on matters of religion.

And of course, the esteemed Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, was ever present, if not in person, then by video. In a video-taped message to the group, Dobson charged that the Supreme Court had created "an oligarchy." He said, "America's court system is tearing at the very fabric of this nation . . . [an] unelected, unaccountable, and often arrogant judiciary, is imposing judicial tyranny as judges legislate from the bench, being guided by Western Europe that most liberal place on the planet." According to the Tennessean's report, Dobson urged the attendees to defend John Roberts from the likes of Senator Ted Kennedy, Patrick Leahy and "all the other minions on the left."

Dobson, along with Governor Mitch Daniels, has been invited to speak at an upcoming dinner sponsored by the Indiana Family Institute headed by Curt Smith. Indiana's GLBT community has been highly critical of Governor Daniels' decision to appear before the anti-gay civil rights group that, along with Advance America and the American Family Association, has been so critical of his policy of non-discrimination towards gays and lesbians. Dobson, already known for his extreme views, further marginalized himself recently when he compared embroyonic stem cell research to Nazi medical experiments conducted on Jews and other prisoners held in concentration camps during World War II.

Dobson and other conservatives have also been highly critical of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist after he recently announced support for federally funded embryonic stem cell research. Frist, a surgeon by trade, was not invited to the "Just Us" rally taking place in his own home state. Just four months ago, Frist was celebrated by the group for his efforts to end Senate filibusters of Bush's judicial nominees. That'll teach him not to tow the line.

If only Governor Daniels could be so lucky as Senator Frist and be disinvited to speak at Curt Smith's Indiana Family Institute dinner. Better yet, Governor Daniels should seriously consider whether he wants to associate himself with such a narrow-minded, intolerant group which gives Christianity a bad name.

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