Monday, August 6, 2007
Neutral Judges Under Attack from Radical Right
The Columbia Tribune recently published a great article on "Blunt Judges the Judges."
The article traces how the Missouri non-partisan court plan worked for Gov. Ashcroft - including the appointment to the Supreme Court of his chief of staff, Chip Robertson. The Missouri Plan allows lawyers to elect three members from around the state in non-partisan races. The sitting governor appoints for 6 years three lay members to the commission. The governor will obviously appoint lay people of similar political ideals. Add to those six folks the chief judge of the Supreme Court, you get seven people who review the applicants and send three qualified folks to the governor. When Ashcroft packed the Missouri Supreme Court with 7 Republicans (all of whom were qualified), it was after the citizens of the State of Missouri had decided to allow back-to-back Republican administrations. The citizens of Missouri have decided that they wanted 12 years of Democrats and then to elect Gov. Matt Blunt. The Missouri Plan does not allow a governor to come in and change the administration of justice. What a great accomplishment - take the partisan politics out of selecting neutral judges.
The right wing sees the selection of judges as the new gay marriage. You have to give it to the religious right, they know their issues. The greatest victory for for the far right is the appointments of Roberts and Alito to the US Supreme Court. Rev. Pat Robertson had his followers pray for the retirement of liberal supreme court judges so that Bush could appoint conservative ones. Rev. Robertson has even said federal judges are worst than al Qaeda. The Christian Broadcast Network has tons of posts related to the selection of judges.
The Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution stating "WHEREAS, This cherished freedom of self-government has been, and continues to be, threatened in recent years by certain unelected judges, who, presuming to legislate from the bench, have issued decrees that subvert the very foundations of our democratic republic." The Assemblies of God, with their headquarters in Springfield, love to talk about judges, including conversations about how judges stole Christmas. The two biggest religious right faith organizations in Missouri - Southern Baptists and Assembly of God - are laser focused on this issue. Just so happens that the two ministers to speak at Matt Blunt's pre-inauguration ceremony were from the 2nd Baptist Church in Springfield and the James River Assembly of God in Springfield.
How does this play out in Missouri? The Republicans are clearly losing it. Sen. Chris Koster dumped the Republicans because of their crazy positions on stem cells and the attacks on judges. Koster fired Jeff Roe - the lead attacker of the neutral judicial system. Jeff Roe is also employed by Gov. Matt Blunt. Blunt is in trouble with the religious right because of his pro-stem cell position. Missouri Right to Life says Blunt can't call himself pro-life. MRL says "the Governor has broken faith with the tens of thousands of pro-life volunteers around the state who helped elect him. He has broken his pledge not to support using public money to pay for cloning or embryonic stem cell research. He has broken his pledge not to allow any research that uses human embryos created by in-vitro fertilization (IVF)."
So, to get the religious right back in his camp - to play to his base - Blunt is going after the judges. Jeff Roe has started the Adam Smith Foundation to attack neutral judges. Everyone associated with the Adam Smith Foundation, according to Fired Up Missouri, is a Blunt/Roe person. There you have it - the attack on judges is not about good government, it's about getting Gov. Blunt re-elected when the religious right has had enough.
It is really too bad that God has been drawn into politics like this. If Jesus came back today, he would say the same thing now: "give unto Cesar what is Cesar's." Don't worry about the politics, just feed the hungry, care for the poor. I don't see anything in the red letters of the new testament addressing the Missouri non-partisan court plan.