Washington Watch: Is GOP ‘God’s own party’?

Voters must understand that they are electing more than a president; they are shaping the nation’s judiciary for a generation to come.

September 24, 2015 01:53
gop debate

Various Republican US presidential candidates during the second official Republican presidential candidates debate of the 2016 campaign in Simi Valley, California. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Decisions made during the Supreme Court term that begins on the first Monday in October will reverberate over the next 13 months until the first Tuesday in November 2016 when American voters will make their own decisions that could determine the makeup of the court for a generation.

Over the past year the court has made some of its most controversial decisions that already are major issues in the presidential campaign, including upholding Obamacare and same-sex marriage.

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Last week’s GOP presidential debate made clear all the Republican contenders want to reverse both decisions, and several want to take steps to significantly weaken the court’s authority. Most would apply stiff litmus tests to any nominee, particularly demanding a rigid opposition to abortion and gay marriage. In defense of “religious liberty” they are ready to tear down the wall of separation between church and state.

This election takes on greater historic importance when you consider that three justices – Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy – will be 80 or older when the next president is sworn in.

Their successors could significantly change the makeup of the court.

Ginsburg has been an anchor on the Left, Scalia on the Right and Kennedy, a Center-Right swing vote that has made the difference in most 5-4 decisions. Ronald Reagan nominated both men 29 years ago; Ginsburg was named by Bill Clinton in 1993.

A top priority for most Jewish voters will be halting the assault on the wall of separation between church and state.

Orthodox Jewish groups, however, generally want to see big openings in the wall to give them access to more government funding for their schools and institutions.

But most Jewish voters want to see the wall fortified, and that is likely to be reinforced after the latest Republican debates.

Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum in particular left the clear impression that they think GOP stands for God’s Own Party. All the candidates staunchly asserted their Christian identity.

“Sadly, under the Obama Administration, we are seeing the greatest assault on faith in our nation’s history. The persecution of religious liberty must end,” Cruz states on his campaign web page and on the stump.

“There is a war on faith in America today,” he declared, and he apparently sees himself as the holy warrior sent to battle the forces of evil. He has indicated that if elected his interpretation of the Bible would take precedence over the Constitution or the courts.

A fiery orator, he pressed his religious theme by announcing his presidential candidacy in March at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University.

Helping carry that message is the senator’s father, a born-again Evangelical pastor whose movement “seeks to bring Christian influence into US politics.”

Rafael Bienvenido Cruz, 76, is his son’s leading campaign surrogate and closest adviser, frequently appearing alongside him on the stump. The father, a Cuban immigrant, has compared Barack Obama to Fidel Castro and called the president an “outright Marxist” seeking to “destroy all concept of God” and should be sent “back to Kenya.”

Sen. Cruz called the recent same-sex marriage decision a “lawless” act that “undermines not just the definition of marriage, but the very foundation of our representative form of government.” He’s introduced measures to term-limit justices and to strip the federal courts of jurisdiction in such matters and give it to the states.

He contends “the court’s views are radically out of step with public opinion,” but polls consistently show that is not true, even among Republicans. But he doesn’t care, apparently relying on some higher authority.

Cruz, insisting he is the most conservative of the field, is focused largely on Evangelicals in southern states. In 2012 white Evangelicals voted 79-21 for the Republican nominee, and they are the largest single voter bloc in the GOP, with particular clout in the primaries.

Republicans seem intent on locking up the homophobe vote and not just with their opposition to same-sex marriage. Huckabee accused Obama of being “more interested in appeasing America’s homosexuals than honoring America’s heroes,” because he intends to nominate a gay man to be secretary of the army.

Huckabee called the gay-marriage ruling “unconstitutional” and said he would not feel bound to obey it. He rushed to Kentucky to stand by county clerk Kim Davis, who claimed she was acting “under God’s authority” in refusing to follow federal court orders to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples. Huckabee, who praised the thrice-divorced adulteress’s defense of the institution of marriage, declared that as president he would answer to a higher authority than the Constitution.

“As president I will never bow down to the false gods of judicial supremacy,” the Baptist preacher declared.

“The Supreme Court is... certainly not the Supreme being.” As president he would sign religious liberty executive orders to overrule “an out-of-control act of unconstitutional judicial tyranny.” The Supreme Court cannot “repeal the laws of nature and nature’s God on marriage.”

Cruz said, “Today, for the first time ever, the government arrested a Christian woman for living according to her faith. This is wrong.”

Actually it is Cruz who is wrong, dangerously wrong.

Davis was not arrested for trying to protect her religious beliefs but to impose them on others. That’s something Cruz and Huckabee would want to do if elected president.

Cruz, a lawyer and former Supreme Court clerk, knows that obeying the law is not a selective option.

He and Huckabee are pushing what amounts to nullification, that old discredited legal theory that the states can override, or nullify, federal laws they deemed unconstitutional. Southern states used it to prevent integration of their schools and ban interracial marriage. Now the target is same-sex marriage.

Most opponents cited biblical admonitions against race mixing and homosexuality.

It’s not just the president who nominates dozens of judges every year to the various federal benches; the Senate must advise and consent on those lifetime appointments. So the makeup of the next Senate will help shape the federal judiciary for decades.

Voters must understand that they are electing more than a president; they are shaping the nation’s judiciary for a generation to come. Jewish voters are almost certain to reject in wholesale numbers this GOP tilt to the extreme religious Right.

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