Christian Conservatives Want Unambiguous Supreme Court Pick

WASHINGTON – Christian conservatives renewed their call to President Bush to nominate a clear judicial conservative to the vacant associate justice position in the Supreme Court following Harriet Miers’ withdrawal from consideration for the office yesterday.

Reminding the President of his campaign promises in 2000 and 2004 to pick strict constructionist jurists in the mold of conservative Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, Christian leaders sought to move past the Miers nomination, which had divided opinion with many seeing her as being insufficiently qualified for the post.

“Nothing could rally the President’s strongest backers more than for him now to select a strong judicial conservative, an unquestioned champion of judicial restraint,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. “President Bush can rebound, retrench, and rally. And we stand ready to help him do so.”

Miers, who served as the president’s personal lawyer in the position of White House Counsel, wrote to him in a letter yesterday that senators’ requests to see documents about her work in the White House would have compromised the independence of the Executive Branch of the government. She withdrew, saying it was best for the country.

Strong supporters of Miers, such as Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice commended the nominee for withdrawing, indicating that she had “once again put the interests of this nation and of this President above her own interests.” Sekulow, who is also an advisor to the president on judicial matters, said he looked forward to “solid judicial conservatives for the federal courts.”

Potential nominees which have been mentioned by Christian conservatives as having unambiguous conservative judicial records include Janice Rogers Brown, Edith Jones, Miguel Estrada Michael Luttig, Michael McConnell and Priscilla Jones.

The desire for unity among Christians was a concern for Richard Czik, vice-president of governmental affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals. He told Christianity Today that the withdrawal by Miers was better than continuing a “bruising battle and lose.”

“At least we didn’t have to go on squabbling as a Christian family over this,” he added.

The Rev. Patrick Mahoney, president of the Christian Defense Coalition, who had been against the nomination, acknowledged such divisions, but rejected claims that they showed weakness on the part of religious conservatives. He urged the president to “get it right” with the next nomination.

“This national conversation over Ms. Miers did not show weakness within the faith community,” he said at a press conference before the Supreme Court steps in Washington yesterday. “It showed principle. It showed commitment and with one voice that we are willing to rally around President Bush and say, ‘Get it right this time.’”

When the President nominated Miers, little was known about the nominee. In a controversial strategy to let some supporters learn more about Miers, the president mentioned that her evangelical faith was a part of who she was, creating the perception among some that he was “promoting” her faith as one of the reasons why he had chosen her.

A spokesman for the White House said that in addition to emphasizing her career and conservative judicial philosophy, an aide to the President mentioned her faith to Christian leader James Dobson of Focus on the Family prior to the official announcement of her nomination and encouraged him to seek out members of her church in Texas to confirm her conservative credentials.

"We evangelical Christians didn't inject religion into this. The President did," Cizik said. "[The White House] wanted support for her and went to some high-profile evangelical leaders and got it.”

Dobson began as a strong supporter of Miers, but grew increasingly concerned in recent days about her stance on abortion, citing a 1993 speech where “she sounded pro-abortion themes and expressed so much praise for left-wing feminist leaders.”

Dobson supported yesterday’s decision by the president, adding that he would not have been able to support her candidacy based on those new revelations.

“I believe the president has made a wise decision in accepting Harriet Miers’ withdrawal as a nominee to the Supreme Court,” he said.

Following Miers’ withdrawal on Thursday, President Bush acknowledged that his responsibility to fill the vacancy still remained and said he would “do so in a timely matter.”