By Rob Boston
Confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan are in full swing, and as Americans United had hoped, we’re getting some questions about separation of church and state.
Yesterday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) asked Kagan about the relationship between the First Amendment’s “Establishment Clause,” which bars laws “respecting an establishment of religion” and the Free Exercise Clause,” which curbs laws “prohibiting the free exercise” of religion. Together they provide for religious liberty and the separation of church and state.
“What will be your approach to interpreting the Establishment Clause of the Constitution, and how do you believe it works with the Free Exercise clause?” Feinstein asked.
Kagan’s answer was long and legalistic. (You can read our blogger buddy Don Byrd’s account of the whole thing here.)
The crux of her answer was this: “In general, I think, what both First Amendment clauses are designed to do – and this is the way in which they work hand in hand with each other – what they’re both designed to do is to ensure that you have full rights as an American citizen. You are a part of this country, no matter what your religion is, and to ensure that religion just never functions as a way to put people because of their religious belief or because of their religious practice at some disadvantage with respect to any of the rights of American citizenship. So, I think that that’s the sort of overall purpose of both parts of the amendment.”
Not a bad answer. I’d still like to hear Kagan questioned about the church-state views of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison and how her thoughts stack up with those founders. And I’d like to know more about her views on the intersection of religious liberty and civil rights law. Maybe later.
Meanwhile, the Religious Right has found itself in a real bind. The conventional wisdom is that, barring some sort of dramatic, last-minute revelation, Kagan will be confirmed. But Kagan was nominated by President Barack Obama, whom the Religious Right despises, so groups in that movement feel compelled to attack her. (Plus, it’s good for fund-raising.)
The problem is, the Religious Right’s salvos aren’t getting any traction – and they just keep getting more and more pathetic.
Consider Religious Right stalwart, conspiracy theorist and hack novelist Tim LaHaye. LaHaye, a godfather of the Religious Right, is charging that Kagan is a “globalist” who secretly yearns to usher in one-world government. (You know, like they have on “Star Trek.”)
One-world government is a long-running obsession of LaHaye, a founder of the secretive Council for National Policy. The fact that there isn’t any serious effort under way to create such global rule doesn’t stop him. In fact, it just makes him more suspicious – it’s obviously a cover-up!
LaHaye, who made millions peddling his “Left Behind” series of apocalyptic potboilers, is back with a new work of fundamentalist science fiction called Edge of Apocalypse. Written with Religious Right attorney Craig Parshall, Edge of Apocalypse tells the story of Joshua Jordan, a former spy-plane pilot whose efforts to create a missile-defense shield rile up globalist forces and inadvertently spark Armageddon. (“Honey, I blew up the world! Oops!”)
What does any of this have to do with Kagan?
You got me, but for some reason, LaHaye decided to light into her on a blog promoting his new book. In a desperate attempt to link his goofy tome to current events, he warns darkly that Kagan and other “globalists” on the high court “could begin radically steering us away from view of the Constitution that honors our Judeo-Christian heritage and founding.”
Fulminates LaHaye, “With Elena Kagan on the Supreme Court, international legal standards could well be imposed on American citizens by the High Court’s legal globalists even without the need for Senate approval of specific international treaties. In our new novel, Edge of Apocalypse, we show how this trend could create a legal nightmare for conscientious Christians.”
What does Kagan really believe about international law?
Prodded by Republican senators about the issue on Tuesday, Kagan patiently explained that while it can provide ideas for U.S. courts, it’s clearly not binding.
As I’ve said in a previous post, I don’t know what kind of justice Kagan will turn out to be. I’m hopeful she’ll be in the mold of John Paul Stevens, the jurist she aims to replace. But we don’t know that because her record is scanty. That’s why AU asked the Senate Judiciary Committee to do its job by questioning Kagan thoroughly on church-state issues.
The Religious Right has decided on another course: screaming that Kagan is a judicial activist, a far-left maniac, an unqualified empty pantsuit and now a dupe for the great globalist one-world government conspiracy.
At this point, they’re just throwing anything out there and praying it sticks. It isn’t.
Really, if this is the best these groups can do, I’d suggest they bow to the inevitable and go home.
Edge of Apocalypse? Edge of insanity is more like it.