Political Advocacy Tracker is a roundup of what Christian activist organizations have been talking about over the last week.
Political activist groups reacted quickly to President Obama's pick to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens. Solicitor General Elena Kagan has a long resume, but a scant record of writing on key issues. Progressives may not be pleased with Kagan, but conservatives were the most vocal activists.
The narrative conservatives are building around Kagan revolves around her judicial inexperience, her views of gay rights, and fear of her abortion positions.
Kagan has a long resume, including a clerkship with the Supreme Court, dean of Harvard Law School, and solicitor general of the United States. But absent is any time on the bench.
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said Kagan is "woefully inexperienced." He compared her to Obama, saying that like him, "she, too, may have charmed her way into one of the most powerful positions in America with a clever charisma that hides her ultimate agenda: to reshape the court with a profoundly radical bent."
Kagan would be the first justice to be on the bench without prior judicial experience since William Rehnquist joined the Court. In 2005, President Bush nominated Harriet Miers, who also lacked any judicial experience.
American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) chief counsel Jay Sekulow said at the time that Miers' lack of judicial experience was "an asset, not a liability." For Kagan, however, the lack of experience is troubling.
"If confirmed, Kagan would become the first Justice to the Supreme Court in nearly 40 years who has no previous judicial experience," said Sekulow. "This fact underscores the importance of closely examining her judicial philosophy—will she abide by the Constitution, or will she take an activist view?"
In Focus on the Family Action's weekly webcast, Bruce Hausknecht agreed that Kagan's lack of judicial experience leaves many questions unanswered about how she would be as a judge.
"The basic question for any Supreme Court nominee ought to be: What is their judicial philosophy?" said Hausknecht. "We have no clue how Elena Kagan will perform once she's—if she is—confirmed to the SC."
Lacking a record of decisions, groups have focused on one of her most visible actions as Dean of Harvard Law School. Kagan joined with other schools in opposing a federal law requiring military recruiters on campuses that receive federal funding. The schools were eventually rebuffed by a unanimous Supreme Court. The schools objected to the military's Don't Ask Don't Tell policy.
For activists, this episode is evidence of her being against national security and in favor of gay rights.
"Ms. Kagan's incredibly hostile view of the military suggests she is out of touch with mainstream sensibilities and obedience to the rule of law," Perkins said.
The American Family Association focused on the recruiter issue when it urged people to write their Senators to oppose Kagan.
"Our national security is far too important to become a plaything in the hands of judicial activists like Ms. Kagan would certainly be," said the AFA. "To put someone with such hostility to natural marriage and duly enacted law on the Supreme Court is an unacceptable threat to this profoundly important institution."
Dan Nejfelt of Faith in Public Life said characterizations of Kagan as anti-military are "inflammatory and misleading." He pointed readers to an analysis by Media Matters of the recruiters' case and Kagan's view of veterans and the military.
Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America, wrote, "Kagan's history paints a picture of a smart political advocate, loyal to liberal ideology. … She looks primarily like a Democrat insider who will rubber stamp the President's agenda."
Some commentators have joined a whisper campaign going beyond Kagan's resume, questioning her sexual orientation. While Kagan is single, she is not a lesbian. As we reported, Focus on the Family Action and Family Research Council have said they would oppose any nominee who was gay.
Bryan Fisher of the AFA has said the Senate should ask Kagan directly if she is a lesbian. "The day a homosexual is elevated to the bench, the end will have come for the principle of sexual normalcy, the rule of law, and the supremacy of the Constitution. That's too big a price to pay," said Fischer.
Perhaps Focus Action best summed up conservative's opposition to Kagan in a brief note that it suggested its members send to their Senators:
Picking a Supreme Court judge should be about finding someone who values the Constitution above the opportunity to re-write it more to their liking. Elena Kagan, with zero experience as a judge, has spent her professional career working for judges who embrace judicial activism, law schools that indoctrinate it, and presidents who enable it. She has also demonstrated hostility to traditional marriage, support for abortion, and approval of homosexuals in the military. Please vote no on her confirmation.
New SBC Immigration Policy in the Works
The Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) has written a draft statement on immigration reform. Emphasizing that the paper is a work-in-progress, Richard Land and Barrett Duke have posted the white paper for comments.
This policy position builds on a more general statement approved by the Southern Baptist Convention in 2007. It is also consistent with most of the positions of an October 2009 resolution by the National Association of Evangelicals.
The ERLC proposal begins with an examination of biblical statements on immigrants. The result is a positive view of immigrants, including those here illegally.
"Rather than taking a negative attitude toward the vast majority of undocumented immigrants in our nation, there is plenty of reason to take a positive perspective toward them. The majority of them have proven their desire to work hard, provide for their families, and obey the law, except of course for immigration law. The main point is that the majority of these immigrants have proven their desire to live among us in peace," said Land and Duke.
The proposal lists and defends many changes to current immigration policy.
The first of these policies is to improve border security, though the authors explicitly say this does not mean a fence along the border with Mexico. Rather, it is meant as a statement that as the U.S. addresses the lives of immigrants already here, it should not invite further undocumented immigrants. The ERLC also proposes a cut-off date for applying for legal status and a limit on family members immigrating later once immigrants obtain legal status.
Most of the document then deals with moving current immigrants toward legal status. The ERLC is not calling for amnesty. It said there need to be "appropriate and adequate penalties and requirements" for those who are moving toward citizenship. These penalties should be viewed as "restitution, not retribution." The document also calls for tougher action against employers who hire illegal immigrants.
AFA's Fischer said he has a "gentlemen's disagreement" with Land on immigration policy. "Sound immigration policy is simple: secure the southern border by building a double-layer fence along every one of its 2,000 miles, deal with the illegal aliens already here through attrition, and preserve intact families by repatriating them intact."
Odds and Ends
• During an interview with Larry King on CNN, Laura Bush said that she and her husband disagree on gay rights and abortion. Jenny Tyree of Focus Action said Bush's comments on same-sex marriage focused on allowing couples who love each other to be married. "Mrs. Bush didn't mention anything about sex or children, and neither do the proponents of same-sex marriage. But this is the whole point of marriage," said Tyree. "Americans want to be fair. This includes Mrs. Bush. But we can't redefine the most foundational institution in human society to please adults at the expense of what children need for their best future—a mom and a dad."
• One small story that was picked up by several groups was the decision by the Ed Young Senior Citizens Center in Port Wentworth, Georgia, to ban voluntary prayers before meals. The Center did so out of a concern that because they were using federal funds to pay for part of the meals, there could be no religion involved. The Liberty Counsel reported that after it discussed the issue with the parties involved, the center changed its policy.
• Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners, said that the U.S. has an addiction to oil. "At a deep level, what's not working in the U.S. is our lifestyle—particularly the consumerist energy habits we showcase to the rest of the world. Moving toward a 'clean energy economy' will require more than just a re-wiring of the energy grid; it will also take a re-wiring of ourselves—a conversion, really, of our habits of the heart. We must adjust our expectations, demands, and values," he said.
• Another story making the rounds was that of students in Live Oak high school in California who were sent home for wearing clothes portraying the American flag on Cinco de Mayo. Chuck Colson of BreakPointsaid, "It appears that Americans have just about had enough of being told what to think and what to say—and that's a healthy sign." Colson then suggested that the administrators of the high school take civics lessons to learn the meaning of tolerance.
Copyright © 2010 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
Earlier Political Advocacy Trackers are available on our site.
Christianity Today also follows political developments on the politics blog.