Thursday, August 25, 2005


Are a judicial nominee’s "deeply held religious beliefs" a legitimate area of exploration for legislators charged with the advice and consent function? During recent confirmation hearings New York Senator Charles Schumer began pursuing this novel line of inquiry --apparently based on the belief that the first amendment not only creates a wall of separation between church and state (words not found in the Constitution) but also establishes special hurdles for individuals who take their faith seriously.

Naive observers might think that the primary qualification for judicial nominees would be their ability and willingness to interpret the law fairly. But as courts increasingly take upon themselves legislative prerogatives, a candidate’s philosophical views loom ever larger to politicians charged with the responsibility of deciding who is and who isn’t "qualified" to sit on a federal bench.

Under Schumer’s view of jurisprudence, constitutional temperaments seem to be compatible with deeply held views of all types--just not with deeply held religious views. Thus, even though more than 90% of Americans claim to believe in God, as far as judicial reflection is concerned, only god-free logic is clearly acceptable.

Imagine, for example, a judge with deeply held positions that are at odds with the vast majority of Americans when it comes to the age of sexual consent. Imagine that the judge’s name is Ginsburg. Would the philosophical roots of her views make any difference to Schumer and associates? Apparently not. All that would matter is that she came to her "progressive" views without relying on any religious convictions.

Now consider a judge with deeply held religious views that are roughly congruent with ideas embraced by at least half the country. Imagine the judge’s name is Roberts. Does the religious basis of his moral convictions become a major issue? Apparently so--since his religious beliefs trigger concerns arising from an expansive rendering of the First Amendment establishment clause.

In sum, secular nominees are OK, theists are questionable, and true believers are out of court. Ironically, this rule makes the following premise judicially illegitimate: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."

According to Jefferson, governments are founded to secure the aforementioned rights. But according to Schumeristas, judges in that government fall under a cloud of suspicion if they employ this traditional concept of natural rights when pondering the resolution of legal questions. (Over a decade ago Justice Thomas, in his confirmation hearing, was given grief by Senator Biden for subscribing to these same "self-evident" truths that undergird the Declaration of Independence.)

Judges are entitled, it seems, to reason based on penumbral emanations plucked from thin air. They are also entitled to patch together decisions under the philosophical banner "the greatest good for the greatest number"--a benign utilitarian phrase that Princeton’s Peter Singer employs to justify infanticide. But they are not entitled, by Schumer’s lights, to reason based on the axiom that life derives from God--at least not if the conclusion to that train of thought violates some "deeply held" abortion plank in his party’s platform.

This new approach to jurisprudence depicts people of faith as irrational, eccentric, and narrowly sectarian--persons whose aberrant ideas must be quarantined to prevent public contamination. Meanwhile, non-religious minds (or intellects that have been scrubbed clean of religious pollutants) are portrayed as legitimate jurists.

This view would come as a surprise to George Washington, whose Farewell Address contains these anti-Schumeristic observations: "Of all the dispositions and habits that lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports.... And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion."

Removing religious symbols and rituals from the public square was a giant first step on this slippery suppositional slope. That policy made it possible to stigmatize as theocratic all public officials with strong religious views--especially judges. If both these strategies prove successful, the only persons deemed qualified to rule in our still religious nation will be those who are indifferent or hostile to the beliefs held dear by a substantial majority of citizens. The secular sieve that cleansed the public square of vital religious expression will have accomplished the same feat in the halls of government.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005


Perhaps in response to Bill Cosby’s humorous critique of "Who you are? What you be?" linguistic deformations, a Cal State sociologist has convinced the education pooh-bahs in San Bernardino of the need to incorporate substandard English into the curriculum of that school district--at least on a limited basis.

Dr. Cosby, you may recall, had the temerity, the effrontery, da u-da-man moxie to declare that kids who speak like untutored street urchins are as unlikely to impress potential employers as baggy-pant adolescents who show up for interviews flashing four inches of underwear and sporting a backward-facing baseball cap. For this shameless violation of political correctness Cosby was excoriated by sensitivity monitors in the press and tarred with convenient accusations of moral impropriety--concerns that are never raised by MSM talking heads when Jesse Jackson pontificates about matters of race and culture.

Now the empire is striking back. The "we no Tomz" academic establishment --whose record of negative accomplishment rivals that of Democrat consultant and John Kerry campaign advisor Bob Shrum--is pushing not only the risible notion that Ebonics is a distinct language but also that the issue is a foregone scholarly conclusion.

Consequently, ideas that worked poorly with an honest-to-goodness language (Spanish) are now being shoehorned into a curriculum on behalf of speech patterns that reign supreme ("be top dog") in the world of rap. The rationale for this educational absurdity is that speaking in Ebonics will keep kids who are currently dropping out in large numbers more interested in school.

More likely what will happen is that marginal students will think they’re OK just as they are--since the desperate language of pop-culture will be accorded special recognition. Indeed, if Ebonics is a real language, why should members of this distinctive linguistic community learn to talk like "whitey"? As Harvard economist Roland Fryer Jr. has observed, the idea that educational accomplishment means selling out to "da man" already permeates black culture. Ebonics-based education only strengthens that notion by linking identify politics to poor speech. In this way anger, sloth, and racial pride are combined in a witches brew almost guaranteed to produce failure.

Needless to say, none of the sociologists or school board members got to where they are by using the language they seek to legitimize. Nor would these persons think twice about exiting a doctor’s office where the fellow with the stethoscope spoke in the cockneyesque dialect of the street (’aws ye bum, guv’nr!). Of course, no one has to make that decision because professional accomplishment requires serious dedication--a quality not exhibited by those of whatever race who cling to sloppy grammar and poor diction like a security blanket.

In many ways Ebonics advocates resemble jar-of-urine-as-work-of-art exhibitionists. Both fancy themselves part of a special group that is more creative, sensitive, and thoughtful than ordinary folks. Unfortunately, kids victimized by this avant garde educational project will lose out in a much bigger way than suckers who cede their aesthetic sensibilities to a few con-artists.

As Thomas Sowell’s book, Black Rednecks and White Liberals, observes, these black pupils will be encouraged to identify more completely with a violent "cracker" culture that has nothing to do with racial identity and that undercuts their own success. They’ll certainly be worse off than Spanish-speaking students whose native tongue wasn’t invented by an academic in search of a tenured post.

Put succinctly, these children will be kept on the plantation--a plantation that benefits various shades of elites who constantly churn out bad ideas for which they themselves never pay a price: whole language, self-esteem curricula, culturally sensitive math, and now Ebonics.