President George W. Bush's nomination of Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor to a federal judgeship showcases why this administration alarms advocates of church-state separation.
Pryor has defended Roy Moore, Alabama's infamous "Ten Commandments judge." He even recruited Herb Titus, a former dean at TV preacher Pat Robertson's law school, and other Religious Right extremists to help craft Moore's defense. Under Pryor's watchful eye, some of these attorneys made bizarre, long-discredited arguments in court, asserting, for example, that the First Amendment's religious freedom provisions don't fully apply to the states.
Just as alarming, Pryor brought in Jay Sekulow, head of Robertson's American Center for Law and Justice, to represent Alabama in a school prayer dispute.
Pryor seems to believe he is on some type of religious crusade. Addressing a pro-Ten Commandments rally in Montgomery, Ala., in 1997, he thundered, "God has chosen, through his son Jesus Christ, this time, this place for all Christians Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox to save our country and save our courts."
Shockingly, Pryor once questioned the role of the Supreme Court as the ultimate arbiter of the Constitution.
It's hard to imagine a less suitable or more unqualified nominee for a federal appeals court. Yet this is the man Bush wants to put on a court that is one step away from the Supreme Court.
Bush claims to support church-state separation, but his actions prove otherwise. Since taking office, he has used every weapon at his disposal to hammer away at the church-state wall. The attempt to stack the judiciary with nominees like Pryor is nothing less than an effort to refashion church-state law in America.
Bush wants to move this country away from its time-tested policy of separation into a new arena of "faith-based initiatives" and "partnerships" between religion and government. He's counting on men like Pryor to spearhead a legal revolution and bring that about.
The result would be a disaster. All history shows that unions of church and state are harmful to religious liberty and human freedom. Religion has prospered under America's policy of separation, and our society is the freest, most religiously diverse in the world.
Unfortunately, Bush and Pryor do not appreciate that. In their view, government should be able to "help" religion and the wall of separation between church and state should be replaced with thin air.
Pryor is a dangerous Religious Right ideologue. He is unfit to serve on the federal bench. Americans who value their freedoms had better wake up and make their voices heard before our nation's traditional last line of defense of freedoms the court system falls under the sway of Bush and his Religious Right cronies.