An all too apparent trend has developed in the United States over the last five years which when examined closely leads one to conclude that the Constitution of the United States is under full frontal assault by forces opposed to freedom and to the ideals this country was founded upon. Religion plays a large part in this current condition of America.
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is under investigation for multiple ethics violations involving overseas travel and ties to lobbyists. Last year the House Ethics Committee voted three times to admonish DeLay for his role in illegal fundraising related to a redistricting plan that DeLay helped push through the Texas legislature. A civil law suit is underway against the political action committee begun by DeLay for improperly spending around $600,000 in corporate contributions to implement the redistricting and thus unseating the democratic office holders in those districts.
The Republican House leadership responded to Delay’s legal and ethics problems by circling the wagons by changing rules and putting the ethics committee under their thumbs. Membership on the committee saw an increase in friends of Delay and Dennis Hastert, the Speaker of the House. By doing this, they hope to derail any further actions aimed at either DeLay or any other Republican.
In fact, one of the new members of the ethics committee was previously a co-host of the 2002 fundraising breakfast that fed money into the same political action committee that is currently the subject of a grand jury investigation in Texas. The substance of the investigation is whether or not the committee improperly used corporate funds to affect the outcome of the state legislative races. Further reports indicate that two other members of the Ethics committee have made donations to DeLay’s legal defense fund. Obviously, any real purpose to this committee has since evaporated, at least in appearance if not in fact.
Delay continues to answer the charges that have been lodged against him by classifying them as political attacks instigated by the Democrats. Conflicts between the two parties have led to an ethics committee that can no longer function as it cannot agree on operational rules.
Recently much of the United States watched in disbelief when Congress lead by the Republican leadership passed a bill to allow Federal Courts to intervene in the Terry Schiavo case. To begin with, Delay had the unmitigated gall to state, “God has brought to us Terri Schiavo to elevate the visibility of what’s going on in America.” This perverted sense of the culture of life that is espoused by these men, is at the center of their most recent cultural skirmish. The Congress and President can write and pass a law and get it signed on two days notice to interfere in a private family matter, while at the same time defend executions by the State and loudly complain about the Supreme Court decision to limit executions to adults who are mentally sound. The reason for this conflict on the philosophy of life is that in both cases, the issues appeal to the republican base: the fundamentalist conservative Christian element of the electorate. This is why George Bush who ran an execution mill as Governor of Texas has no problem with his position on Mrs. Schiavo.
The issue of conservative Christian beliefs is at the very core of all that is transpiring now in the Congress of the United States as well as the White House. God is brought up more now in these political institutions than he is in some churches. The line of separation between Church and State is gone. No longer is there any pretense that one’s personal faith is separate and apart from their obligations as elected officials. They wear God on their sleeves and have attempted to mold God into their own image.
We saw in the Presidential campaign of 2004 the issue of “activist judges” brought up time and time again by the Republican party as a campaign issue. There was and continues to be a constant impassioned plea against these men and women who serve on the Federal bench as a result of legal decisions made by these jurists. The main thrust of the attack is that the judges were all “liberals” moving forward an agenda that did not agree with the conservative movement. When the judges who made these decisions were look at more closely, it was found that most if not all were appointed by Republican Presidents and not Democratic ones. Deserving of particular criticism and condemnation were judges that made any pro-gay decisions based upon the law and the principles of fair and equal treatment under the law.
In the Schiavo case, it is exactly so-called “activist judges” that the republican leadership counted on to render decisions that would reverse all of the prior state court decisions that had upheld the rights of the husband to carry out his wife’s last wishes. Instead, the Federal Courts which were given jurisdiction over the Schiavo case by the special act of Congress, went against the political aims of those who had created the law and as a result, were soundly condemned as being activist judges. This crass attempt to interfere with the very personal decision of how to live and when and how to die, failed, and was a victory for the rights of the individual.
In reaction to their failure to force a court decision that agreed with their position on the matter, the conservative leadership next took aim at judges in general; both state and federal. DeLay stated on the floor of the Senate that “The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior.” This statement can only be seen one way: A direct threat against the integrity of the Judicial branch of the Government. The threat while not clearly indicative of urging violence against judges, was taken that way by many who heard the DeLay statement. The statement brought swift condemnation by most right-thinking politicians on Capital Hill.
These statements were closely followed by statements from Senator Cornyn (R) of Texas that included, “It causes a lot of people, including me, great distress to see judges use the authority that they have been given to make raw political or ideological decisions.” Cornyn went on to say that there was a possible connection between decisions viewed as unfavorable by the conservative movement around the country with courthouse violence that has taken the lives of federal and state judges. What is even more scarier is that Cornyn is the chairman of the Senate Subcommittees on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Property Rights. This position allows Cornyn to decide if the newly reintroduced proposed Constitutional ban on same-sex marriage moves forward in the legislative process. What is in the water in Texas?
The impact of these statements upon judges can only be guessed at as they go about carrying out the duties of their respective offices. Judges are suppose to make decisions based on law and not politics.
Finally, DeLay has now called for a “panel review” of the role of the Courts, both state and federal in the Schiavo case. DeLay further characterized the Courts as being, “an arrogant, out-of-control, unaccountable judiciary that thumbed their nose at Congress and the President.” DeLay fails to remember that there are three branches of government for a reason and that “Checks and balances” are not just a good idea, they are mandated by the Constitution. DeLay and his associates actually consider the courts failed in their duty because they did not rule as the politicians wanted them to rule.
This country is in grave danger because of the actions of the conservative movement. Even the McCarthy era didn’t come close to what we are beginning to witness in Washington today. The arrogance, hostility, and disregard for the Constitution is beyond anything that we have witnessed in this country. It is incumbent upon the American people to restore the true democratic values in our nation’s government, which includes the separation of Church and State. For the Constitution clearly prohibits the establishment of a state religion. The republican conservative movement have in all but name done exactly that; they have established a fundamentalist Christian conservative religion as their official religion and are attempting to impose it upon the nation.
Archbishop Bruce J. Simpson, OSJB, is the author of “The Gay Face of God” and “If He’s Queer He Musta Done It”. A Vietnam Era Veteran, former Police Officer of the Year, a Federal Agent, a Federal Magistrate, an armed bodyguard to Saudi Royalty, a senior Federal Government executive, and recipient of awards from the Vice President of the United States and the Secretary of Treasury.
While studying at Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary and Theological College at the Catholic University of America, he decided that his own conflict of conscience would not allow him to go on to ordination in the Roman Catholic Church. He was ordained a deacon in the Old Catholic Church in 1995, a Priest six months later, and was called to the Episcopacy in early 1999. On January 30th, he was consecrated a Bishop of the Catholic Church. In 2002, he was consecrated sub-conditione by a Roman Catholic Archbishop, three times removed from Pope Paul the Sixth.