Ads Accuse Senate Liberals of Religious Bias

The Committee for Justice (CFJ), chaired by former White House Counsel C. Boyden Gray, plans to expand its “Catholics Need Not Apply” ad campaign criticizing Senate liberals for blocking appellate court nominees who are Catholics or Southern Christians and who publicly adhere to their churches’ teachings on abortion.

So far, CFJ has run print ads in three newspapers in Rhode Island and Maine, and also eight days of radio ads in those states. “The next round is going to be in national Catholic publications,” said CFJ Executive Director Sean Rushton.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R.-Utah) told the New York Times last month that the “left is trying to enforce an anti-religious litmus test” that says that “nominees who openly adhere to Catholic and Baptist doctrines, as a matter of personal faith, are unqualified for the federal bench in the eyes of the liberal Washington interest groups.”

The ads thus far have actually mentioned three Republican senators-Lincoln Chafee (R.I.), Susan Collins (Maine) and Olympia Snowe (Maine)-and only one Democrat, Jack Reed (R.I.). The three Republicans have not voted to block the nominees, but Reed has. But it is Senate Democrats who are feeling the heat.

“The Democrats went crazy defending themselves because they know the ads are dangerous to them,” said Rushton.

The print ads in Rhode Island featured a picture of the front door to “Judicial Chambers” with a sign hanging from the doorknob that reads, “Catholics Need Not Apply.” The text said, “Why are some in the U.S. Senate playing politics with religion? As Alabama Attorney General, Bill Pryor regularly upheld the law even when it was at odds with his personal beliefs. Raised a Catholic, those beliefs are shared by Rhode Islanders all across the Ocean State. But some in the U.S. Senate are attacking Bill Pryor for having ‘deeply held’ Catholic beliefs to prevent him from becoming a federal judge. . . . It’s time for his political opponents to put religion aside and give him an up or down vote. It’s the right thing to do. Thank Senators [Lincoln] Chafee [R.] and [Jack] Reed [D.] for making sure the Senate stops playing politics with religion.”

Democratic Senators Dick Durbin (Ill.) and Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), both members of the Judiciary Committee, have taken the lead in defending their party from charges of anti-Catholic bias. Durbin said July 30 that “three Catholics active in pro-life and Catholic causes” have been confirmed as judges by the Senate, and a spokesman for Schumer said that his boss supported “dozens of both Catholic and pro-life nominees such as New Yorkers Richard Wesley and Reena Raggi.”

But William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, countered these assertions. “Of the three nominees mentioned by Durbin-Joy Flowers Conti, Michael Melloy, and Jay Zainey-only the latter [sic] has been identified as being pro-life,” said Donohue, “his r??©sum??© simply noted affiliation with Lawyers for Life. Sen. Schumer’s defense is even weaker. There is no record, either from her r??©sum??© or from a database search, of Reena Raggi’s ever being affiliated with pro-life causes. And Richard Wesley is not even Catholic — he’s a Methodist.”