01 February 2006

David Waters of The Scripps Howard News Service defends blind, religion-free reporting when it comes to the confirmation of Judge Samuel Alito, taking the trepidation of the Senate Judiciary Committee to ask Alito about his religious beliefs as proof that those beliefs weren’t an issue, and that theology plays no role in the American judicial system. Blissful forgetting of the religious controversies that surrounded both the promotion of Harriet Miers’ personal religion, or the disingenuous cries of anti-Catholicism when John Roberts was questioned about his beliefs? In part, sure. It’s also part something more tedious: the columnist’s timeless urge to assure readers that nothing important just happened, that everyone’s gotten worked up over nothing, and that none of our differences are really that great. Oh, to be the voice of reason. Only problem is, just lines down from promising that promising that, “Alito’s interpretation of Scripture might guide his conscience, but it has no role in his interpretation of the U.S. Constitution,” Waters admits that players on both sides of the Alito nomination — liberal groups and conservative Christian activists — see his confirmation as a very religiously-freighted question indeed, with the excitable Pat Robertson claiming the bench is now 5-4 in favor of God, but even the more discreet — and more influential — heavyweight Christian groups praising his confirmation as a victory for values and the end of “judicial activism.” Common sense here dictates paying less attention to the secular-sounding praise of thoroughly sectarian groups, and more attention to the fluid, interdenominational religious issues around which they openly organize.