Carol Platt Liebau: Harriet Miers and Religion

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Harriet Miers and Religion

The Wall Street Journal is quite correct in this op/ed today when it none-too-gently reminds the Bush White House that discussions about Ms. Miers' faith and her views on abortion aren't (and shouldn't be) relevant to how she'll rule on a variety of hot constitutional issues, including Roe v. Wade.

Yet, in the law, there are types of evidence that are inadmissible for some purposes, but perfectly admissible for others. For example, a witness's prior inconsistent statements aren't admissible to show the truth or falsehood of the statement(s) at issue -- but they can be used for the purpose of impeaching a witness's credibility.

Analogously, in my view, a nominee's religious and political views can't be used to indicate how she will rule in a particular case (or particular types of cases). But they can, quite properly, be used to shed light on her character, which is also an important component of any judicial nomination.

And although strong religious convictions are no guarantees of an originalist judicial philosophy (see, e.g., Justice Anthony Kennedy), to me, knowing that a nominee has them is nonetheless of some comfort. That's because it seems to me that there is less likelihood (not no likelihood, but less likelihood) that those with strong religious views -- who acknowledge the existence and power of a God greater than, say, The New York Times -- will succumb to the kind of "I'm King of the World" hubris that precipitates judicial arrogance and overreaching.

So there's no harm in The White House talking about Ms. Miers' religious convictions. But it should be clear that it's doing so to shed light on her character, not her jurisprudence.

3 Comments:

Blogger Jeff said...

I really question the validity of the religious conversation even if it is in regards to character (over jurisprudence).

Conservatives argue that liberals shouldn't subject people to a religious litmus test. I agree. But, if conservatives bring religion up, does that make it suddenly acceptable? I argue that this is a conservative reverse litmus test. Am I wrong?

The alternative is a conversation absent of religion or church attendance. Would this be so bad?

5:33 PM  
Anonymous LQ said...

If Miers’s spirituality plays any role in her public life, for example if she prays or reads scripture for guidance in her decisions, that spirituality should be a part of our discussions about her. It should not under any circumstances, however, disqualify her from serving. I am an evangelical Christian, but would support Miers if she were Catholic, Jewish or Muslim, etc., if I felt she were qualified.

The smaller the role her faith plays in her public life, the smaller the part it should play in our discussions about her.

I agree with Carol: it’s relevant on who she is, not how she’ll rule.

8:34 PM  
Blogger HouseOfSin said...

Carol - Not sure how to put this, but you just impeached the GOP.

"For example, a witness's prior inconsistent statements aren't admissible to show the truth or falsehood of the statement(s) at issue -- but they can be used for the purpose of impeaching a witness's credibility."

The GOP's statements on the importance of religion has been inconsistent. I'm agnostic, if you will, on the truth or falsehood of the importance of religion. But the statements on its importance greatly impeach the credibility of the GOP.

7:28 AM  

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