WASHINGTON -- On Wednesday, Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor oversaw the removal of the Ten Commandments monument from the rotunda of the state Supreme Court building. Pryor believes that the court ruling ordering the removal was incorrect. After all, the U.S. Supreme Court building itself has depictions of the Ten Commandments. The court opens its sessions with an invocation of God. And we know the other familiar elements of state-sponsored religion in America, from the chaplains in both houses of Congress to ``In God We Trust'' on the coinage.
Despite his personal views, Pryor was unequivocal in ordering the removal. He was equally unequivocal in his reason for doing so: The rule of law supersedes everything. And when a federal court issues an order, there is no standing in the schoolhouse door. For his pains, Pryor was picketed by 150 religious protesters calling for his resignation.
Pryor has more recently been attacked from a different quarter. Senate Democrats have blocked his nomination to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on the grounds of his personal beliefs. ``His beliefs are so well known, so deeply held,'' charged his chief antagonist, Sen. Charles Schumer, ``that it's very hard to believe -- very hard to believe -- that they're not going to deeply influence the way he comes about saying, `I will follow the law.'''
An amazing litmus test: deeply held beliefs are a disqualification for high judicial office. Only people of shallow beliefs (like Schumer?) need apply.
Of course, Schumer's real concern is with the content of Pryor's beliefs. Schumer says that he would object to ``anybody who had very, very deeply held views.'' Anybody? If someone had deeply held views in favor of abortion rights, you can be sure that Schumer would not be blocking his nomination. Pryor is being pilloried because he openly states (1) that Roe v. Wade was a constitutional abomination, and (2) that abortion itself is a moral abomination.
These views may not be majority views, but they are not eccentric. Roe v. Wade has been widely criticized by liberals, from legal scholar Jeffrey Rosen (``Justice Harry Blackmun's famously artless opinion'') to Michael Kinsley (``a terrible decision'') to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who noted that it short-circuited the political process and prevented a ``stable settlement'' of the issue. And, of course, non-liberal commentators have filled libraries anathematizing Roe for having launched a social revolution on the back of one of the flimsiest, most willful constitutional inventions in American history.
Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.
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