Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Liberal Judges

I am beginning to lose count of how many e-mails I am receiving from people who are convinced that putting John McCain into office will end abortion, bring school prayer back, eliminate the idea of homosexuality, and make everyone a believer in Jesus. As I recall, it wasn't that long ago when the Religious Right and conservatives were bashing this guy. Now that he is up against the "evil Obama" - he is looked at as a saint. Each person is entitled to their own opinion and vote, but here is what thing that drives me nuts. When asked about Obama and why he is so evil, I am continously told by church people that it is because he will appoint evil, liberal judges to the Supreme Court and other judicial posts. In my opinion, this is a stupid argument. Why? Because look at people like John Paul Stevens or David Souter (even to a degree Anthony Kennedy). Stevens & Souter were both appointed by Republican Presidents and both have turned out to be liberal judges - especially Stevens! What is the guarantee that a McCain appointed judge will not turn out to be just like them? What is the guarantee that an Obama appointed judge will not view decisions fairly and even possibly become more conservative while on the bench? There are just no guarantees that a person's judicial/political viewpoint will not change. Plus, before needing to suck-up to the ultra-conservatives of the Republican party, McCain always seemed to be more middle-of-the-road rather than staunch conservative. My guess is his appointments would be more like that than guys like Scalia or Thomas. Do I want judges who favor pro-life over abortion? Heck yes. However, I worry about making a decision for President simply based upon the assumption that McCain will appoint and get approved judges who will support the right to life. History has a way of showing us that this just doesn't happen like one would assume.


Jim B said...


It is difficult to know where to begin deconstructing your naïve, uninformed, and simply false dismissal of the “stupid argument” that a vote for John McCain is a vote for better federal judges. When I am finished, however, it will be clear that it is your post and thought process that will rightly claim the title to “stupid.”

First, I know of no one who is arguing that a President McCain will “end abortion, bring school prayer back, eliminate the idea of homosexuality, and make everyone a believer in Jesus.” This statement is so hyperbolic as to be utterly ridiculous and hardly makes it worth the output of intellectual energy to continue reading your blog. What follows this outrageous beginning is consistently absurd. Your dismissal of the difference between the judges Senator McCain would appoint as opposed to those Senator Obama would choose is shockingly erroneous and displays a fundamental misunderstanding of the issue.

The difference between a liberal judge and a conservative judge is not personal ideology, but rather an endorsement of legal philosophy which informs a judge’s decisions. A liberal judge will impose a liberal agenda by restructuring the United States Constitution by reading new “rights” into its text that do not exist—such as a “liberty interest” or a “right to privacy,” which form the new umbrella under which the right to abortion and gay marriage are now protected. No such rights exist in the Constitution. By contrast, a conservative judge does not create rights from the Constitution in order to enact a personal social agenda. Instead, he respects the laws enacted by the people through their elected legislators. Do you not understand that when a handful of judges in California overturn the will of the electorate, we no longer live in a democracy, but a dictatorship of black-robed men and women? When federal judges create a Constitutional right to abortion or a right to gay marriage or expand the establishment clause of the First Amendment to eliminate the ability of believers to pray in school or other public forums, democracy dies a slow death. And the death of democracy is evil. That was how Ronald Reagan saw it. That’s how I see it. And that’s how Senator John McCain sees it.

Second, while it is true that some Republican appointees to the federal bench have not maintained a strong conservative legal philosophy, this reality only makes the appointment of strong conservative legal jurists all the more imperative. The culture of the federal bench—which is a product of our liberal universities and law schools—quickly corrupts the weak minded. Senator John McCain understands this tendency of lawyers who become judges to join in the group think of the vast majority of judges who believe in a “living Constitution” as a method of enacting a social agenda that would have little chance of being properly enacted through legislatures. The reason I know how thoroughly Senator McCain understands this issue is because last year Senator McCain nominated me for a position on the federal bench.

Third, as a believer, you ought to be very concerned about the slow and sure erosion of the freedom of religion. Make no mistake about it. The assault on traditional values such as prolife, school prayer, traditional marriage, the teaching of intelligent design, etc. through the use of the courts and laws is nothing less than an assault on religion in general, and Christianity in particular. To view it otherwise is naïve, and, frankly, a concession to putting out the lights in the shining city on a hill referenced in Micah. America cannot be a light to the darker places in the world when we have no light ourselves. If you don’t recognize the battle, it is already lost.

Making a decision for president based on the kinds of judges he would appoint is actually the best criteria you could use. Federal judges enjoy lifetime appointment, so it is the most lasting legacy of any president. Moreover, the courts control every aspect of our lives because laws are only as good as the judges who interpret them. Democracy itself is in the hands of either judges who will allow it to function properly or who will hijack it according to their own agendas.

It’s your choice, Skippy. Choose wisely.

Landon said...

Jim. You have a good argument here, and you show the difference between your knowledge and wisdom and my youthful "naïve, uninformed, and simply false" thinking. As you stated in your intended goal, you have made me look stupid. Touche. However, here is my thoughts for whatever they are worth (if anything at all).

I think people are arguing that McCain is the Savior of the Universe. Just like they did for George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan. That doesn't mean there are not smart-conservative-Christian voters, as shown by yourself. I do believe, though, that believers get tripped up into believing you have to vote a specific way if you are going to honor God. Another way of stating that is Jesus mandates a Republican vote. Is that true? I wouldn't think so, but maybe it is. A lot of Christian voters who have talked with me think it is that simple. I would argue against that.

Well done on your argument of activist judges and restraint judges. Sandra Day O'Connor talked about this very issue when she left the Supreme Court. This is a tough issue. I think this also applies to the Bible. When it is silent on something, what do we do? Obviously on things like abortion and homosexual marriage, it is not silent. Perhaps Senator McCain does see this (as your appointment seemingly backs up), but perhaps he will also appoint those who will turn or those who aren't as strict on judicial restraint as you are. I don't know. I guess my whole point was to say what is the proof we will get it the way you argue for?

All this to say, I guess my frustration is that so many Christian voters have come to me and basically argued that voting McCain "guarantees" that Christianity will thrive, we will get judges who judge by the Bible, and our country's morality will be strong. What does this say for the number of Christians who are choosing to vote for Obama? Are they stupid? My tendency as a young thinker is to be wary of a people group who votes one way all the time. But maybe I need to not be so "anti-establisment."

You make a compelling argument via my flimsy point about Souter & Stevens. I guess my quest to figure out this election goes to do I need to vote a particular party?

Amber said...

All I have to say is....I totally agree! Nuff said :)

Amber said...

I thought this was interesting

Amber said...

Ok so I guess I should clarify my pervious comment. I agree with an individuals right to a vote….any vote…. and that the 10-20 pro-McCain emails per day does get a little annoying.

So here is my rabbit trail to comment on Landon’s original post.

I am really sick of hearing that the “young” generation can’t make an informed decision. And that simply b/c some one is a Christian they must cast their vote to McCain! I understand that wisdom comes with age…no argument there, but that doesn’t mean that a “young” person’s opinion is naïve, stupid, or wrong simply b/c of their chronological age. All I am saying is give the “young” generation some credit; we are not all bumbling idiots who can’t form an intelligent thought.

-Now really Nuff said! :)

Anonymous said...

Nobody wants to have Judges with agendas, either liberal or conservative ones. Judges who use the bench to make laws misuse their position and violate the framer's intent of checks and balances. But Judges can be too conservative and in some stances can be too rigid when it comes to certain issues and legal dilemmas that the framers couldn't have forseen. It is true that some of the most enduring legacy of a President are their judges and it is also true that some Judges' views change over time. A few months ago 60 Minutes did an inetrview with Justice Scalia who has become extremely good friends with Justice Ginsberg. They have radically different views on the law but are colleagues who get along. I'd love to see more of that in Congress. But anyways, Landon, I tend to agree with your original point, which is to say that while Presidential appointments matter, I don't think its wise to base your vote on that factor alone. Presidents and Judges, and everyone else are people and they tend to be unpredicatable. To quote the esteemed Conservative Bill Bennet when he talked about the Republican President Reagan, "even Ronald Reagen wasn't always Ronald Reagan."
Jim, I don't know you well but I do agree that there is a significant erosion in terms of religious freedom and in particularly in basic Judeo Christian values and ethics being the norm for society. I just don't agree that Federal Judges can or should be the ones to stem the tide.

Jim B said...


My intent was not to make you feel “stupid.” I merely used your own words to expose the fault in your argument. You began your argument by dismissing anyone who disagrees with you as “stupid,” which does not invite a dialogue. I wanted to get your attention because your adamant rejection of the issue of which candidate will appoint more appropriate judges was poorly thought out and poorly supported. However, in general, use of words like “stupid” does little to encourage meaningful discourse.

Now, let me address your primary question. Must a believing Christian always vote Republican? Of course not. In fact, the question itself exposes a sheep-like mentality that belies the intellectual aspect of both faith and politics. God gave you a brain, and He expects you to use it. Start by establishing what your worldview is. If you are a believing Christian, you must adopt a Biblical worldview. Having and maintaining a Biblical worldview is not easy in today’s largely secular world. It is an unpopular position that, on many issues, has been labeled “intolerant.” Determining what issues promoted by the world are consistent with the Bible and it’s teachings is imperative for the conduct of your life and the things you teach your children. It is also imperative for evaluating the people you choose to vote into a leadership position of this nation, from the local to the national level. This requires critical analysis, serious introspection, and, frankly, courage. Courage is required to stand by the conclusions that a Biblical worldview will lead you to, because they will not be popular positions. Christians who do not constantly go through this process are prone to adopt a secular worldview simply as a function of being saturated in it. Adopting the pervasive secular worldview without thinking through the ramifications is no less sheep-like than Christians who unthinkingly vote Republican.

That said, with a solid Biblical worldview as your basis, you must assess not just the political parties, but each candidate. I think you will find more often than not that the candidate most aligned with a Biblical worldview will be the Republican candidate, although not necessarily in every instance. The point is, voting Republican is not a Biblical mandate, but voting with a Biblical worldview is. If you did not see Pastor Rick Warren’s Saddleback Civil Forum with both presidential candidates, I urge you to watch it. The difference between the two candidates is stark. The Saddleback Civil Forum did not endorse a candidate for Christians—it exposed the candidates through a series of questions and provided voters a chance to assess the candidates and determine which one more closely matches the voters’ values. However, even that exercise is futile for the Christian voter who has not winnowed out the world and adopted a Biblical worldview.

Regarding judicial appointments, it seems from your reply that you still do not fully grasp the issue. We are not searching for “judges that judge by the Bible,” as you put it. We need judges who judge by the Constitution. Senator McCain did not forward my name to the White House for nomination to the federal bench because of my position on abortion but because of my judicial philosophy. There is no guarantee that judges appointed by Senator McCain will maintain a stance of judicial restraint. A president cannot control his appointees once they are on the bench. However, if you listen carefully to the two candidates’ answers at the Saddleback Forum, the chances of getting the kind of judges we need is vastly higher with Senator McCain than it is with Senator Obama because Senator McCain will search for men and women with the correct legal philosophy. Senator McCain understands that democracy itself depends on this.

As I said previously, judges who issue opinions that enact an agenda, rather than enforce the law, are dangerous, even lawless. It is impossible for society to count on laws that are constantly subject to the vagaries of judges’ social agendas, rather than judges who know their proper role do not stray from it. Moreover, Christians must realize that it is judges who will preserve the original intent of the freedom of religion found in the First Amendment that is critical to our continued ability to worship God. As a Christian, an objective assessment of the two presidential candidates on this issue weighs heavily in favor of Senator McCain.

Thanks for the opportunity to share my thoughts with you on this very important subject.

Landon said...

Jim, I appreciate your feedback. I honestly want healthy feedback that helps people as they progress in making decisions. In this particular situation, I don't know if we will ever come to a complete agreement, but your insight is worthy of consideration and careful thought.

I did see the Saddleback Forum. In MY OWN PERSONAL opinion, I think that Forum was easier for McCain as he simply had to cater to those who were already most likely voting for him. Senator Obama knew the odds were stacked against him and still chose to do it. Do I agree with everything Senator Obama stands for? No. Then again I don't necessarily line up like a sheep for Senator McCain either.

I think the hard struggle is that the Obama campaign gives me more hope. That could be naive and false hope, but it is hope. Do I really believe that a 73 year old cares about me as a 26 year old? Do I really believe that Senator McCain even clearly remembers what it is like raising small children? I don't know. Maybe. Senator McCain and his attack partner (Gov. Palin) do not endorse hope in my book. That does not mean they aren't completely worthy of being elected, just not an appealing campaign.

I still struggle to because of the number of believers who I admire who have expressed support for Senator Obama. Are they all wrong? Even more important, are they violating God's will by voting for Senator Obama? Does God have a preference in this election? Based upon your statements, it seems like you are saying that God wants us to vote McCain/Palin. Am I reading you right?

Finally, at what point does the separation of church & state come into play? From what I gather from the Constitution and our forefathers, they believed strongly in that. What is its role in this election? I am not saying we should put our faith and belief on the side...just trying to figure out where all of this factors in.

Thanks for dialoguing with me. I hope to hear from you more on this.

Jim said...


Since you seem genuinely interested in trying to critically assess, and perhaps reexamine, your position, I’ll quickly just address the questions/issues you raise in the order you presented them.

Saddleback Forum. I fail to see how the Saddleback Forum was “easier” for Senator McCain. Both candidates were presented the exact same questions out of the presence of the other candidate. (Much like a real job interview.) Even assuming the audience was largely Christian, both candidate profess to be Christians as well. Moreover, both candidates received applause numerous times. Both candidates also are friends with Pastor Warren. I see no advantage to either candidate in the set up. I urge you to watch it again before you vote. This time, really deconstruct what each candidate says and try to re-phrase their message in your own words. If you cannot easily do so, it is a poor answer. Also, listen for which candidate is decisive and which is “nuanced.” As an attorney who frequently argues in front of panels of judges, I can tell you that a decisive “yes” or “no” answer is always best. If an attorney (or a candidate) does not answer a “yes or no” question with a “yes” or “no,” it is invariably because they are arguing from a position of weakness and do not want to reveal the true answer. Of course you will not completely agree all the time with any candidate (or any other living person, for that matter), but, again, it is hard not to conclude that Senator McCain is vastly more experienced, determined, decisive, and, of course, clued in about judicial appointments. All of those are imperative when choosing a commander-in-chief.

Obama “gives you more hope.” Hope for what?? Don’t give me the tired line “we need change!” Both candidates represent and offer significant “change.” Seriously, hope for what? How can electing a person with zero relevant experience and a history of seeking out relationships with racist, radical, criminal persons and organizations give you “hope?” It is not “negative” or “fear-mongering” to question with whom a candidate chooses to spend time and effort. It is practical. It is also Biblical. Fellowship means something. Who are the major influences in this person’s life? Who are yours? How do they compare?

Can a 72-year-old American president care about a 26-year-old American man? Well, considering I think Senator McCain cares very much about his own children, particularly his twenty-something sons who are serving in our armed forces, I consider it astonishing that you can seriously ask such a question. What you are really asking about is character. I think you must agree that, of the two candidates, there is really no question which one has demonstrated the kind of strength of character that anyone wants in a leader—a willingness to do what he asks his team to do. At an age younger than you are now, Senator McCain repeatedly endured physical, emotional, and mental hardship you will never encounter—all for the benefit of his fellow soldiers. And all when he could have had a very easy way out. Senator McCain has shown how he cares about a 26-year-old American, and every American, by his service alone. Senator Obama can offer no such depth. Again, the Saddleback Forum exposes this starkly. At the risk of sounding patronizing, do not get caught up in the “coolness” of supporting Obama. Critically dissecting what Obama actually says, stands for, and has been involved with is much cooler.

Does God have a preference in this election? Certainly, I can never presume to speak for God. I can, however, ask myself the following questions. Based on the Bible and what I know of God, does He prefer individual choice and freewill or coerced behavior? Well, God wants me to choose Him, but does not force me to. Ok, so what form of government most effectively promotes choice and freewill? Obviously, democracy. Ok, then, which candidate’s approach to government most effectively promotes true democracy that fosters choice and freewill? McCain wants to appoint judges that will allow democracy to work through the people and their elected officials. Obama wants to appoint judges that will tell the people that they must accept certain new social changes by overturning duly enacted legislation and creating rights in the Constitution where they do not exist. Which allows more individual choice and freewill? How about on economics? McCain wants people to be able to keep more of what they earn so that individuals may choose how to spend it and share it. Obama wants to take more of what people earn from them so that the government may decide for people how they should spend and share their money. Take any issue and compare which candidate allows more individual choice and accountability, and then decide which furthers that ability in you and your children.

The “separation of church and state.” I don’t have time here to go into this one as deeply as I would like. Let me just say that, first, that phrase is found absolutely nowhere in the Constitution or even in the Declaration of Independence. It actually comes from a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote after our Constitution was ratified. Nevertheless, insofar as the concept was represented in our Constitution it was meant simply and solely to prevent the government from establishing a national, mandatory religious affiliation. Think England and The Church of England. Or Rome and the Pope being both ecclesiastical leader and secular leader. That’s all the “separation” was meant to be. If you think the founding fathers were not religious or did not invoke God in nearly every endeavor, you are completely mistaken. Religious freedom was one of, if not the primary, motivations for creating this incredible country. Any serious study of American history must recognize that. Frankly, the thought you seem to express that somehow, as an American, you must keep separate your political self from your religious self, is nothing short of alarming. You cannot responsibly do that. The role of your faith in this election must be paramount. That’s what I was getting at with my previous discussion of worldview. If your Christianity does not inform everything in your life, every decision you make, whether in the house, at work, or in the voting booth, then, frankly, you do not own your Christianity. Faith is only as authentic as it is acted upon.

Thank you for the chance to talk about these pivotal issues. Good luck.

Landon said...

Jim. Thanks for the reply. I was told that you were not going to waste any more time replying, and I was disappointed. So it was a pleasant surprise that you decided to continue to process this with me.

What I wanted to communicate about the Saddleback Forum is that it was set up for Christians. In our current culture, it seems as if a lot of conservative Christians simply line up to vote REP. So in light of that, I thought going into that Forum, McCain was going to have more support. That’s all. Christians tend to be most accepting of their own kind before branching out to truly listen to others.

One of the issues I have in this election is the idea of “experience” – which you have brought up. I agree experience can be a great thing. I also think that experience can be a problem. Personally speaking I think every elected official needs term limits, but that is another debate for another time. My issue with experience though is with our current Commander-in-Chief and Senator McCain’s VP choice. I would not say that George W. Bush came into the Presidency with experience. In fact I think it is funny how the roles have reversed, as Republicans shrugged off experience in 2000 but now it is a huge issue. Sarah Palin also doesn’t strike me as this amazing experienced leader either. Frankly, I don’t think experience should be a determining factor. If it were, then the younger generations of America would become irrelevant. As far as this election goes, even Senator McCain said that Senator Obama was qualified to be President…for whatever that is worth.

Jeremiah Wright. I assume this is the guy you are questioning. “I think that when people support you, it doesn't mean that you support everything they say. Obviously, those words and those statements are statements that none of us would associate ourselves with, and I don't believe that Senator Obama would support any of those, as well.” That is what John McCain said in defense of this Senator Obama. And I don’t necessarily like John McCain’s desire for John Hagee’s support either. I think everyone will have relationships with people that are suspect. Did Senator Obama give up that relationship with Wright because of political gain? I don’t know, maybe. Do you hold the Bill Ayers thing against Senator Obama as well? Once again, are you saying that all of his friendships and fellowship are with questionable people OR are you just upset with those examples?

Electing someone on the “coolness” factor is a bad idea. I would hope you would not think that is where I am coming from. I may be young and I may even not be that smart, but that is a major insult on my intelligence Sir. I commend Senator McCain on serving in the armed forces. I commend him on what he went through for his troops. He is a great guy. He has done many honorable things for this country. His character seems pretty sharp. However, just because he is a great guy does not automatically make his opponent a bad one. Does being a POW elevate him about Senator Obama? I personally do not think so. I think it is praise and thankfulness to Senator McCain for his great sacrifice, but why hold it against Senator Obama? If the argument is military experience, then once again I question why that was not an issue with George W. Bush??? I have spent a lot of time thinking and listening. Oh and working for the DCP I think gives Senator Obama some points in character for me.

Of course Senator McCain cares about his kids. I just like that Senator Obama is dealing with raising kids right now. He is not 50 years removed from my experience. Should I hold that against John McCain? No. I agree, but I cannot help that it does motivate me.

As far as issues go, it honestly depends on what issue you are talking about. You see I think this is why I am a registered independent. Because both parties have way too much junk aligned with them. It would sadden me if anyone could not see that. But sometimes I think we get too easily fixated on a simple answer that doesn’t always solve the problem. Take abortion. Abortion in and of itself is wrong. Life is life. However, there are way more factors than just that. What economic conditions lead more easily into abortion? What are we going to do as a nation for all of the unwanted babies that are born without healthcare or a father figure in their lives? It is easy to say, pro-life. But to me pro-life means much more than a baby being born. It means making sure that baby has a fair and legitimate shot in life. All that to say, is that I support pro-life, I just want to see more issues being looked at.

Glad to see you know your American history. I agree that the wall between church and state was established by Jefferson in a letter to some Baptists. Many (but not all!) of the founding fathers did believe in God and used many Judeo-Christian beliefs for their background to morality and the formation of the country. But this country was founded for religious freedom – for ALL faiths. Do I think Christianity is the one true faith? Depends on your definition of Christianity. As outlined in the Bible, then yes. But that doesn’t mean I deserve any more freedom than a Buddhist, Muslim, or Atheist for that matter. Perhaps I am wrong, but I guess I just don’t limit a person to be President just because their faith isn’t “right.” In the case of this election, I believe both candidates are believers, so what does a person do then?

My faith influences me. I turn to it, I pray, I study the Bible, I have fellowship with other believers. You can doubt my faith, but trust me it is real. But so far it has not led me into believing that John McCain is the only possible choice. Does that mean my faith is weaker than your own? Does every believer in Jesus Christ who votes for Senator Obama have a deficiency in faith? I think every person separates their religious self from their political self in some ways. That doesn’t mean their faith is not important, it just means that some things & issues will not be able to be completely defined by faith and a person will have to use their best judgment.
All this to say, tomorrow will figure itself out. Either way, God is in control and I am not going to freak out.