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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
August 19, 2005

'Justice Sunday' includes attacks on GLBT people

Nashville, Tenn.--The second �Justice Sunday� broadcast, ostensibly held to drum up support for President Bush�s Supreme Court nominee, included a series of attacks on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people on August 14.

Organized by Tony Perkins, president of the far-right Family Research Council, the broadcast was sent out over the internet, Christian cable networks and via satellite to megachurches across the country. It was held in the 2,200-seat Two Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville.

It was a sequel to the original �Justice Sunday� on April 24, when a string of right-wing speakers vilified �activist judges,� accusing the judiciary of contravening the will of the people.

The first event was publicized as gathering support to end the threat of Democratic filibusters of Bush�s arch-conservative judicial nominees.

The second event was supposed to draw evangelical Christian support for John Roberts� nomination to the Supreme Court, where he would replace the retiring Justice Sandra Day O�Connor.

However, after recent revelations that Roberts did pro bono work for the pro-gay side in Romer v. Evans, conservative groups backed off from their support of the nominee. In that 1996 case, the Supreme Court struck down a constitutional amendment in Colorado that barred the state and municipalities from granting any protections to LGBT people.

Only former senator Zell Miller, the Georgia Democrat who spoke at last year�s Republican National Convention, mentioned Roberts� confirmation hearings directly, asking for attendees and viewers to �cover this confirmation process with a blanket of prayer.�

James Dobson, chairman of Focus on the Family, said, �We expect [Senate Democrats] to turn this nomination into a circus.�

Organizers trotted out Robert H. Bork, a Reagan nominee to the Supreme Court who was rejected by the Senate.

Bork railed that the Supreme Court made homosexuality �a constitutional right . . . and once homosexuality is defined as a constitutional right, there is nothing the states can do about it, nothing the people can do about it.�

William Donohue, the president of the Catholic League, accused the courts of inventing rights, pointing to the right to privacy and �the idea that two guys can get married.�

The speakers, including anti-feminist leader Phyllis Schlafly, painted the religious right in terms of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, bemoaning court decisions restricting the display of religion in the public sphere. Frequent targets other than LGBT civil rights were prayer in school and abortion.

�Disguising prejudice as justice is un-American,� said Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese, one of a score of progressive leaders to speak out against the event�s tenor. �The extremism on display . . . dangerously ignored the court�s more than 200-year-old responsibility of independence. In rallying against this liberty, the speakers . . . rallied against one of our democracy�s greatest qualities.�

�Dobson and his cohorts want federal courts beholden to their religious dictates, not the U.S. Constitution,� said Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, before the broadcast. �The first event was replete with hysterical accusations against the federal courts; the second is certain to be just as offensive.�

�Our federal courts must not be taken over by the Religious Right,� Lynn continued. �That misguided movement is seeking control of all three branches of government in an attempt to roll back civil rights and civil liberties. The separation of church and state is at stake.�

Columnist Derrick Z. Jackson of the Boston Globe, after pointing out the overall conservative nature of the nation�s courts, summed up the event.

�Yet these fanatics rail on, with significant influence in the Bush administration and confident that John Roberts, Bush�s nominee for the court, is the man who will help them, as Donohue hopes, �move to the front of the bus� and �take command of the wheel,�� he wrote. �Justice Sunday mean moving the actual heart and soul of America to the back of the bus.�

Related stories:

April 29: Judges are gaybashed in broadcast from megachurch


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