Fundamentalist Right Rally in Louisville, April 24

A Demand for Power and Theocracy

Revolution #002, May 15, 2005, posted at

"We should not have to choose between believing and living by what’s in this book and serving the public whether it be on the bench as a judge.This debate will shape the future of this nation."

Tony Perkins, Master of Ceremonies at "Justice Sunday" Rally holding a Bible in one hand and a judge’s gavel in the other

"The people on the secular left say, ’We think you’re a threat.’ You know what? They’re right!"

Bill Donahue, National Catholic League, Louisville, April 24

Two thousand preachers and church members packed into the massive Highview Baptist megachurch in Louisville, Kentucky on Sunday, April 24, to listen to speeches by prominent leaders of the Religious Right.

Among the speakers were James Dobson (Focus on the Family), former Watergate conspirator Chuck Colson ("Prison Fellowship"), Bill Donahue (National Catholic League), and Albert Mohler (president of the influential and highly conservative Southern Baptist Theological Seminary).

On the surface, this rally was demanding a basic change in the Senate rules. The speakers demanded that Bush’s stalled judicial nominees be approved by the Senate. And they insisted that opposition senators must not be allowed to use any "filibusters" to block those approvals.

Filibusters are a way that small groups of legislators have historically blocked laws that they strongly opposed. For example, during the civil rights struggle, hateful segregationist senators often filibustered against laws that would grant legal equality for Black people.

Now, a huge fight is brewing over new judges—and the rally organizers are trying to create a political climate where any monster nominated by Bush can cruise to power without real challenges.

The name of their rally tells of a deceitful approach: "Justice Sunday, Stopping the Filibuster Against People of Faith." They claim that allowing filibusters is (somehow) a blanket assault against all "people of faith."

This growing fight over filibusters is itself an opening skirmish of an even bigger fight. All kinds of political forces are gearing up for the struggle over the next Supreme Court nominees—a fight that is expected soon as various ailing court members retire or die.

And listening to the speeches at this rally, you can see that the forces gathered in Louisville have even bigger ambitions about holding and wielding state power. All day, their belligerent, Bible-pounding speeches made it clear, in many ways, that their goal is nothing less than that the Bible—and particularly their literal, ultra-conservative reading of the Bible—should be put at the very center of U.S. political and cultural life.

This fight over judges is ultimately a fight over what the whole legal framework of the United States will be— with a profound influence on what will dominate the culture and politics of this country, and what will be harshly suppressed.

Putting Them on Center Stage

Senator Bill Frist, leader of the Senate Republicans and ambitious presidential hopeful, singlehandedly made this rally into a major national event when he announced his endorsement and sent a personal speech to be played at the event.

Then these proceedings were beamed straight into countless church services and millions of households over a national network of Christian cable stations, radio and websites.

Organizers claimed that their broadcast reached 60 million people, which is probably a gross exaggeration. Still there is an ominous truth embedded within their hype: these religious-political forces have created a self-contained political subculture within the U.S.—where tens of millions of people are indoctrinated about the world through the prism of extreme fundamentalist dogma and politics.

This event was a powerful attempt to seize the initiative in the political struggles that are developing, and to mobilize a loyal and quite ignorant social base as an attack force in this cause.

Focus on the Supreme Court

"The judiciary branch of our government has overstepped its authority on countless occasions, overturning and in some cases just ignoring the legitimate will of the people. Our next step, whatever it is, must be more than rhetoric."

Tom DeLay, Republican leader, House of Representatives, during the buildup to "Justice Sunday"

"The issues that we care about and the values that are important to us are now threatened by the court system and especially the United States Supreme Court. There’s a majority on the Supreme Court that is, and you’ll have to pardon me but this is the way I see it, they’re unelected and unaccountable and arrogant and imperious and determined to redesign the culture according to their own biases and values, and they’re out of control. And I think they need to be reined in."

James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, prominent leader of the Religious Right, Louisville, April 24

For millions of people, it is bewildering to see the Religious Right claim that they are "threatened" by this Supreme Court.

After all, look at this Court!

This is the same court that carried out the shocking Republican coup d’etat in 2000—handing over the White House to George W. Bush on the most dubious grounds (while overruling the Florida courts and shortcircuiting any vote recounting as they did it).

This is the court long headed by "hang ’em high" conservative William Rehnquist —who has crafted court decisions speeding up executions, reducing appeals, and executing prisoners who are youth or mentally retarded.

This court includes the blunt Christian fascist, Antonin Scalia, who openly makes the medieval argument that governments get their legitimacy from "god."

It is a court notorious for upholding government secrecy, permitting this government to round up immigrants without charges, and holding foreign prisoners without oversight.

And so, it is revealing (and chilling) that this quite conservative court is treated as intolerable by the powerful rightwing forces who support this president and what he represents. You get a sense of the quantum leap to the right that they have in mind!

In speech after speech in Louisville, it emerged what kind of court and legal system—and what kind of country— these forces have in mind.

An Openly Christian State

"We’re going to save this civilization and uphold righteousness."

Rev. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, at "Justice Sunday" rally

"The secular left . say we’re going to have a theocracy. What are we, the Taliban?"

Bill Donahue, National Catholic League, Louisville, April 24

"Conservative, my ass, these people are Nazis."

Bob Avakian, Chairman of the RCP,USA

When James Dobson, one of the most prominent "social conservatives" in the country, got up to speak he raged at how intolerable the separation of church and state are to him. He said:

"For forty-three years the Supreme Court has been on a campaign to limit religious freedom, religious liberty. It goes back to 1962 with Bible reading, in ’63, prayer in schools, both prohibited."

In his mind "religious freedom" clearly means the right to impose his Christian fundamentalism on the general population— including through prayer indoctrination in schools.

And at the rally it became clear what these forces see as the solution: raising up like-minded judges to the highest posts.

This rally cheered Judge Charles Pickering of Mississippi—who attended, marched onstage and led them in the Pledge of Allegiance. Pickering was nominated by George Bush for the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals—and the speakers in Louisville fumed that he has not yet been approved by the Senate.

Rev. Mohler praised Pickering for saying that "Christians ought to base their decision-making on the Bible." And pointed out that this is currently considered a problem for a federal judge:

"In the views of some radical secularists," Mohler said, "that just invalidates him from serving on the federal bench."

But Pickering’s stalled nomination is not a case of someone being persecuted for his faith. Pickering is not just a religious believer, he openly believes that a literal reading of the Christian Bible should be the law of the land.

Pickering has publicly said that the Christian Bible should be "recognized as the absolute authority by which all conduct of man is judged." And he carried this out from the bench—including by citing the Bible in his legal decisions.

It has to be said plainly that applying the Bible literally, as the law of the land, would be a HORROR. The legal "wisdom" of this book includes execution for countless minor offenses, upholding the gross subordination (and even killing) of children, stoning as punishment, rights of slavemasters over slaves and much, much more.

And it is important for any fair, thinking, enlightened person to insist (loudly!) that theocrats like Pickering, who see the Bible as an absolute legal authority, must NEVER be allowed to sit in judgement over other human beings.

And, by taking Pickering as a hero and symbol, these Religious Right forces show that they are precisely pushing for a theocracy in the U.S.

Such a fundamentalist Christian theocracy would be a Christian fascist society— with awful implications for people’s lives and for their hopes of progressive change.

Getting Literal

"God’s people have had to learn to discern and say, no, the [Bible’s] text is the inerrant and infallible word of God, it is what God says it is, and what God revealed it to be, and that’s what must constrain our interpretation."

Rev. Albert Mohler, Louisville, April 24

"Our children will best be served by judges who appreciate our Godly heritage and can interpret the Constitution exactly as it is written."

The video that opened "Justice Sunday", Louisville, April 24

President Bush has announced that the only "litmus test" he has for judges is that they should just apply the Constitution as written. And it is not surprising that those who believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible should be excited about a similar literalism in regard to the U.S. Constitution.

But it is important to draw out exactly what that means:

The Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in the U.S. was made based on the legal doctrine that there is an unwritten "right to privacy" implied by parts of the Bill of Rights. And in attacking Roe, the literalists say that since the Constitution says nothing about privacy or abortion there is simply no basis for the Supreme Court to take such a stand.

And clearly one of the goals of these Christian fascists is to finally and completely overturn any federal legal protection for women’s right to choose abortion.

However, following the logic of their logic—there would also be no literalist standing for the federal court legalization of birth control, which was also done on the basis that there is a constitutional "right to privacy." And so was the Supreme Court decision legalizing gay sex and overturning so-called "sodomy laws." In Louisville Bill Donahue shouted from the stage that the idea of a man marrying a man "belongs in an asylum"—so you get a sense of where they want things to go!

Many current standards of U.S. legal decisions are not literally there in the Constitution—like the right to see a lawyer when arrested. And, of course, the same goes for many of the legal rights won by Black people. (It has been pointed out that the Constitution mentions the army and navy, but not the air force—so perhaps it is violates a literal reading of the Constitution for the federal government to buy bombers!)

Legal decisions on civil rights were not mentioned at Louisville, but many of the prominent participants have a history that speaks for itself. The Louisville master of ceremonies, Tony Perkins, is a known associate of Louisiana’s Council of Conservative Citizens (formerly known as the "White Citizens Council"). He once paid former Klan Grand Wizard David Duke $82,000 for his political mailing list.

Judge Charles Pickering campaigned in law school against legalizing interracial marriage, and as a judge showed favoritism toward people who burned a cross on the lawn of an interracial couple.

The Promise of More to Come

"The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior."

Congressman Tom Delay after the final legal verdicts in the Terri Shiavo case

"I want it said loud and clear that I appreciate and agree with Majority Leader Tom DeLay and what he has been trying to do."

James Dobson, Louisville, April 24

After DeLay made his threatening remarks, there was a tremendous debate in Congress and the media over what exactly he meant.

Was he saying judges should be punished for rulings that offended the Religious Right?

Did he mean that they should be impeached or purged?

There was even nervous talk that his remarks might trigger a round of assassinations, similar to the way that anti-abortionists have shot women’s doctors.

Quite openly, speakers in Louisville argued that Congress (where conservative Republicans have a majority) should intervene—both by appointing a wave of conservative and theocratic judges, and getting the current courts "reined in" (as Dobson put it).

But just as clearly, there was a profound undertone that no one here is just talking about Senate procedure or business as usual.

There was a stunning and quite revealing moment at this Louisville rally, when James Dobson reached for an example from the past. There are other times, in U.S. history, he said, when the Supreme Court has done "some horrible things."

And then he pointed to the particular example of the Dred Scott decision—in the pre-civil war days of 1858.

Dobson said: "That decision rendered tremendous chaos and contributed in many ways to the Civil War that resulted in six hundred thousand deaths, the saddest period in American history, it came from the Supreme Court, essentially."

There have been repeated comparisons of this current period with the mounting tensions of the pre-Civil War period. This was raised prominently by Newt Gingrich, a Republican mastermind, and now by Dobson in a speech televised across the country.

Dobson is pointing out that important future decisions by high courts might literally tear the U.S. apart—putting powerful forces within the current government at each other’s throats and plunging the whole existing order into crisis and chaos.

It is hard not to read that statement as a warning, and perhaps even a threat.

On the stage in Louisville, Dobson went on to say that the growing fight over judges and basic legal doctrine is "one of the most significant issues we’ve ever faced as a nation."

This rally in Louisville should , in fact, be taken as a warning—these forces are mobilizing, with powerful support at the top of the government. They are working to take a legal system, which never served the masses of people, and make it an even more aggressive instrument for oppression and ignorance. They are straining to whip their religious social base into an arch-conservative attack force. And they are deadly serious.