Faith, works and Harriet Miers

Posted: Oct 13, 2005 12:05 AM

The White House and other supporters of Harriet Miers' nomination to the Supreme Court are using religion when it suits them and not using it when it doesn't.

During John Roberts' confirmation hearings for chief justice, his supporters said questions about his Catholic faith, or suggestions that there are "enough" Roman Catholics already on the bench, smacked of anti-Catholic bigotry and should be avoided. Some invoked the constitutional clause prohibiting a "religious test" for high office.

Now comes Harriet Miers and the White House seems to be promoting her evangelical faith as a qualification. The message is that evangelical Christians and pro-lifers can trust her because she is one of them. That has not always been the case with previous nominees to high office with similar spiritual and political pedigrees.

The question is: What difference would her faith make in her job should she be confirmed?

Her friend, Texas Supreme Court Judge Nathan Hecht, was asked on Fox News Sunday (Oct. 9) how Miers could separate her faith from her work. Hecht replied it is "easy" because, "Legal issues and personal issues are just two different things. Judges do it all the time. In fact, a judge is going to take an oath that says I'm going to judge rightly in cases, which means that you have to set aside your personal views in deciding the case. And if you don't do that, you're either a bad believer in your views, a bad judge or both."

From that answer comes this question: If Harriet Miers can easily set aside her faith on the job, what is the point of nominating someone with such faith? Why not nominate someone of no faith and the question would never come up? Is faith good only for the confirmation process, but not the job?

I'm all for "people of faith" in government, but what kind of faith? Is it faith in a God who is hauled out at convenient moments and then returned to His box when He isn't needed, or is it a God who informs, converts, strengthens and directs in every area of one's life?

If Harriet Miers is "pro-life" and if she believes, as has been reported, that aborting a pre-born child is the taking of an innocent human life, why should she not be expected to favor overturning Roe v. Wade if the opportunity presents itself? Not to do so would be hypocritical.

Former New York Governor Mario Cuomo delighted his fellow liberals when he engaged in his own version of faith-works separation. Cuomo said that while he accepted the teaching of the Catholic Church that abortion is the taking of innocent human life, as governor he could not impose that view on others who do not share it. But Cuomo could, and did, enforce his church's teaching that capital punishment for convicted murderers is wrong and during his three terms as governor he used his power to bar executions.

During her confirmation hearings, Harriet Miers will be asked if she could set aside her conviction that abortion is wrong and uphold a legal doctrine created in the mind of one man, Justice Harry Blackmun, who sold it to six of his eight colleagues.

There are religions that teach life does not begin until the moment a baby takes its first breath. If an adherent to one of those faiths is ever nominated to the Supreme Court, should such a person be required to separate that "faith" from judging? Just what is being asked of Harriet Miers and what is she prepared to concede, deny or affirm?

Yes, decisions should be based on the Constitution, but according to which interpretation? Like the Bible, in which Miers believes, there are liberal and conservative interpretations. The Declaration of Independence makes four references to "our Creator," Supreme Judge," "divine Providence" and "Nature's God." Its author, the deist Thomas Jefferson, rightly claimed that individual rights come not from man and his institutions, but from above.

Harriet Miers should not be required to deny her faith as the price of confirmation, but neither should she be allowed to hide her intent to use it, or lose it, once on the bench.

The Apostle James wrote, "Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone" (James 2:17). Will the faith of Harriet Miers die on the court, or will her works die? Inquiring minds not only want to know; we need to know before passing judgment.