Jacob Sullum

Harriet Miers' religious affiliation doesn't bother me, but the fact that some people find it reassuring does. This reaction by social conservatives who support her nomination to the Supreme Court suggests they expect her decisions as a justice to hinge on her faith.

 Although President Bush insists he wants Supreme Court justices who apply the Constitution instead of twisting it to fit their personal preferences, he invited conservatives to rely on religious cues in judging Miers. Upon nominating someone with no record of taking positions on constitutional issues as a judge, litigator or scholar, he assured them, "I know her heart."

 The White House played up Miers' conversion to evangelical Christianity, her membership at Valley View Christian Church in Dallas, and her church-related volunteer work. It dispatched Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht, who facilitated Miers' "born again" experience, to vouch for her religious credentials. Although many conservatives remain skeptical, some seem to think Miers' good Christian heart qualifies her to serve on the Supreme Court.

 "When you know some of the things I know," Focus on the Family President James Dobson said on his radio show shortly after Miers was nominated, "you'll know why I've said, with fear and trepidation, [that] I believe Harriet Miers will be a good justice … If I have made a mistake here, I will never forget it. The blood of those babies who will die will be on my hands to a degree."

 As that comment indicates, abortion is the issue foremost in the minds of religious conservatives as they contemplate the prospect of Justice Harriet Miers. Dobson later explained  that "the things I know" referred to Miers' religious identity, her affiliation with "a very conservative church, which is almost universally pro-life," her campaign against the American Bar Association's support for abortion rights, and her former membership in Texas Right to Life.

But as Dobson's "fear and trepidation" reflects, Miers' opposition to abortion won't necessarily translate into a vote against Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that pulled a constitutional right to abortion out of hot air. For all we know, Miers thinks Roe is a reasonable extrapolation from principles embodied in the Constitution.

Jacob Sullum

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine and a contributing columnist on Townhall.com.
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