2005-10-21 / Columnists

The Progressive

Religious Values
By John Paul Culotta

When the new chief justice John Roberts was nominated for his position, we were told, and rightfully so, that his professed belief in Roman Catholicism should not be made part of the inquiry as to his suitability.

Mr. Bush, when nominating Ms. Harriet Miers to be a justice on the Supreme Court, stated she was a suitable candidate for the position because of her strong religious beliefs.

Miers, a candidate that many conservatives and people generally in line with the president, believe to be a lightweight, and many believe would not have been considered if she was not female. Before his first inauguration in 2000, our president stated he desired staff that was loyal. He stated he preferred loyalty to competence and experience. We saw the results when Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf region and FEMA under Brown’s stewardship.

Miers, a loyal person to Mr. Bush, converted from Roman Catholicism to Evangelical Christianity. Some of us may speculate that Evangelical Christianity is a more desirable faith to follow in red state Texas for an up and coming attorney. It is also questionable as to why her profession of belief in this particular branch of Christianity is now considered a reason for suitability for any position in our government. A person’s belief in any religion should not be used as criteria for any position in the United States.

It has been reported in many newspapers that James C. Dobson, founder of the conservative Evangelical group, Focus on the Family, originally stated he was told something in confidence that led him to support Miers, but he would not divulge the name of the person, nor the subject of the conversation. He later rescinded his statement. Senator Arlen Specter, Republican from Pennsylvania, and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, states Mr. Dobson will be requested to testify before the committee. Although Senator Specter stated the behavior of critics of Miers was similar to that of a “lynch mob,” he still feels that Mr. Dobson’s assertion alleging a secret discussion of the nominee deserves a full hearing. It would appear that Miers was chosen for her loyalty to the president and her ability to advocate for major corporations.

It is the opinion of the Progressive that Miers must fully explain her beliefs regarding property rights and eminent domain, First Amendment rights in the workplace, labor’s role in our constitutional system, and privacy rights.

Abortion rights will be a major issue for the judiciary committee. Religious conservatives and right to life advocates will be waiting for a sign that she will be influential in overthrowing Roe Vs. Wade. Although I advocate for women to give life a chance, I believe it would be dangerous for medical decisions to be decided by the government and not doctor and patient. This is the principle Roe Vs. Wade enshrines as a constitutional right. Although the conservative, religious wing of the Republican Party champions state’s rights, they believe that issues of abortion rights, assisted suicide, doctor-patient relationship, and homosexual marriage should be decided by the Supreme Court for the entire nation. Feminists also want abortion rights to be a constitutional guarantee.

In our federal system of government, it may be more appropriate for the states to decide what policy is appropriate for such divisive issues. Red states could have policies that are different from blue states. If a woman in one state cannot get an abortion, she can go to a state where the procedure is permitted. Moral decisions are personal.

Government should set public social policy but not dictate morality. Religious conservatives want a theocracy. In this regard, they are similar to radical Islamists. It is not appropriate for any government official to impose his/her religious beliefs on the entire nation.

It would appear Miers would have some difficulty when the judiciary committee questions her. This is part of our political system. Laura Bush, our esteemed First Lady, thinks the criticism of Miers is because she is a woman. Ms. Bush has an image of being the loyal political wife in the mold of the cheerful, energetic, housewife who will support her man at any cost. She had left her chosen profession of teacher before the president took her to the White House. Now, she claims sisterhood with feminists and professional women. If she is now an advocate of women’s rights and concerns, I feel it behooves her to advocate for reinstatement of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that expired recently. Domestic violence is a serious problem in this country, and family and moral values are at stake. Spouses and boyfriends murder many women each year. According to the Family Violence Prevention Fund, about 30 percent of American women report being physically abused by their husbands or boyfriends. 300,000 women are reported to be raped each year. 896,000 children in this country experience child abuse and neglect each year.

From 1994 to the expiration of the VAWA, the program’s rape crisis centers, domestic shelters and services to nationwide law enforcement agencies helped to protect women and children. Each day, we read of how difficult it is to adopt foster children. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) reported in NASW News of July 2005 that Peter Pecora, principal investigator for Casey Family Programs and professor of social work at the University of Washington, conducted a recent study that demonstrated many foster care alumni when they become adults suffer from a high percentage of mental health problems, and difficult educational and financial situations. 25.2% suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

This is twice that of US war veterans.

The No Child Left Behind Program, which Bush advocated along with Democratic Senator Kennedy, needs to address the issue of how to help damaged families to survive and prosper. Our nation must encourage and ensure stable family structure for all American children. Family values and a right to a decent life are desirable. October is National Dyslexia Awareness Month. Many school districts are now part of the No Child Left Behind program. Identification and effective teaching methods and treatment must become a part of our national educational policy. According to the National Association of School Psychologists, “one of every three special education students drops out of school, and a school dropout has a greater likelihood of going to jail than a smoker has of getting cancer.” On Staten Island a 17-year-old special education student set fire to an abandoned supermarket, causing the death of a homeless man. He also suffered from learning disabilities. Society needs to recognize the importance of identifying and resolving learning disabilities. Nancy Hennessy, the president of the International Dyslexia Association states, “When a child does not learn to read, their lives are affected forever.” Laura Bush, who was a teacher, should speak out for battered women and children, children who are in foster care, and for dyslexic children.

Miers, a corporate lawyer and part of the elite of this land, can advocate for herself. It is questionable that Harriet Miers will be an advocate for women, American workers, or the underprivileged and marginal in our nation. Religious moral values appreciate life in all of its manifestations and difficulties and not just in the womb or near death.

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