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Denounce Attempts to Make Religion an Issue in the Consideration of Judicial Nominees, Faith Leaders Urge President Bush

July 31, 2003, WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Religious leaders differ on William H. Pryor's suitability for appointment to the U.S. Court of the Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. But ten of them felt so strongly about the Senate Judiciary Committee's handling of hearings on Pryor's nomination that they co-signed a letter to President Bush, calling on him to denounce efforts to make candidates' religion an issue.  The full text plus signatories follow.

July 31, 2003

President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

As religious leaders from various faith traditions, we are fully committed to religious freedom and separation of church and state as basic tenets of our Constitution. We agree with you that, "we (America) must continue our efforts to uphold justice and tolerance and to oppose prejudice; and we must be resolved to countering any means that infringe on religious freedom." Today, we write to express our grave concern about the attempt to make religion an issue in the consideration of judicial nominees.

We were deeply troubled to learn that during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week on the nomination of Alabama Attorney General William H. Pryor, who is being considered for a lifetime position in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee injected religion into a debate over qualifications for this position. By questioning Mr. Pryor’s religious faith, Chairman Hatch supported a scurrilous advertising campaign designed to make those opposed to the Pryor nomination seem guilty of religious bias.

Mr. President, we urge you to immediately denounce the reprehensible behavior of the Senate Judiciary Leadership. We ask that you send a clear message to oppose religious interrogation and restore order and dignity to the judicial nomination process. Judicial nominees can be reviewed on a wide range of criteria-but religion must not be one of them. To allow questioning of religious faith during consideration of nominations will set a dangerous precedent with profound implications on future nominees.

We urge you to protect the integrity of the judicial nomination process by denouncing this behavior. As religious leaders, who take seriously our charge to promote tolerance and justice, we hope you will act swiftly on our request. We have a lot to lose. Our shared values of religious freedom are at stake.

Sincerely,

Rev. Bob Edgar
General Secretary, National Council of Churches U.S.A

Elenie K. Huszagh
President, National Council of Churches U.S.A

Robert Delgado
Secretary, National Council of Churches USA
Presbyterian Church (USA)

Bruce W. Robbins
General Secretary
General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns
The United Methodist Church

Rev. Ronald Brugler
President
Swedenborgian Church in North America

Stan Hastey
Executive Director
Alliance of Baptists

Father Robert F. Drinan S.J.
Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center

Sr. Maureen Fiedler
Sister of Loretto

Rabbi Jack Moline
Alexandria, Virginia

Rev. Carlton Veazy
President and CEO, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice

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