A massive mobilization by Christian conservatives to stop Democrats from filibustering President Bush's judicial nominees has ignited a heated debate between Christians over the role of religion in politics.
In April, James Dobson, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., and other prominent Christian conservatives participated in a nationwide simulcast sponsored by Dobson's Focus on the Family Action and Family Research Council (FRC) Action. The event at a Louisville church, called "Justice Sunday: Stopping the Filibuster Against People of Faith," accused Senate Democrats of unfairly blocking President Bush's judicial nominees out of an anti-faith bias.
Jim Wallis, leader of the Call to Renewal movement, told CT that Dobson and others should tone down their language and "show some humility and respect for fellow Christians."
"If Martin Luther King Jr. refused to call those who disagreed with him non-Christians when the issue was racial segregation, then I don't think James Dobson should do it over a Senate filibuster," said Wallis, an evangelical consultant to the Democrats. He does not object, however, to conservative Christians weighing in on judges. Dobson could not be reached for comment.
Democrats have threatened to filibusterwhich requires 60 votes to overcometo block 10 appeals-court nominees from Bush's first term. Pressure is mounting on Frist to call a vote to end the use of judicial filibusters and hold majority, up-or-down votes on the seven judges whom Bush has renominated. Calling this the "nuclear option," Senate Democrats have threatened to shut down the Senate if he does.
Conservative Christians believe Democrats reject nominees who indicate they have pro-life convictions based upon their religious faith. "Just because they have deeply held personal beliefs does not disqualify them from sitting on the bench," FRC's Tony Perkins said during the simulcast. In a taped message, Frist said the Senate needs to "give the nominees the courtesy and respect of a vote."
The fight over judicial nominations, intensified by anticipated Supreme Court vacancies, has become one of the highest priorities for the gop and many conservative Christians. They are upset that liberal judges have struck down bans on partial-birth abortion and homosexual marriage.
"We want to return to a nation governed by law, rather than a nation governed by judges," said Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, a network of 45,000 churches. "This is a major issue to us. We know for evangelical Christians to function, we need the rule of law."
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