United States of Jesus

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Liberty Counsel plans to give the ACLU a run for its money. Staver recalls the case of a high school commencement speaker who planned to talk about "what Jesus had done for her." School officials forbade her to talk on that subject. Staver called the school's superintendent, who said the ACLU could file a lawsuit over the issue. When Staver learned that it had been five years since the ACLU had last contacted the school, he gave the administrator a choice: fear the absentee ACLU or see him in federal court tomorrow. The school relented.

Gay rights are the "biggest threat to our religious freedom," Staver says. The U.S. Supreme Court's decision earlier this year that overturned a Texas law that criminalized sodomy drives Staver and Co. bonkers. To understand why, he says, you have to go all the way back to the creation of Adam and Eve. "Somehow in that relationship as husband and wife, as a unit, together, they are in his image," he explained. Any other arrangement is dangerous. He analogized it to radioactive material, which is beneficial if it remains inside the nuclear reactor but destructive if it leaks out. Same deal with human sexuality: Take it out of the radioactive container of marriage and you've got an adulterous and homosexual China syndrome that "produces destruction and death."

It's time to get Jesus into the judicial mix, Staver says. "Now we're working to establish Liberty University School of Law, which will open its doors in August 2004," he announces. "We are going to teach lawyers to think in a biblical, Christian world view. They will indeed expand this area of litigation." Those students will in turn one day become instructors at other law schools, and, most important, they'll become judges, he promises.

Kennedy followers, however, might not have to wait that long. The president has nominated some of the most conservative judges for important federal benches, and the Senate's slim majority of Republicans is ready to put gavels in their hands. The confirmation of several of the most right-leaning has been held up by Democrats through filibuster.

Among them is Justice Priscilla Owen of the Texas Supreme Court, whom Bush nominated for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Owen was originally rejected by the Senate Judiciary Committee when Democrats were in the majority. When Republicans regained control after the 2002 election, the president renominated her. Owen has been strongly anti-abortion as a member of Texas' highest court and put forth an argument that would have made it virtually impossible for a minor to receive the court's permission to receive an abortion without her parents' permission.

Another nominee, Alabama Attorney General William H. Pryor Jr., also warms the hearts of theocrats. Speaking about Roe v. Wade, Pryor told the Wall Street Journal in 1997, "I will never forget January 22, 1973, the day seven members of our highest court ripped the Constitution and ripped out the life of millions of unborn children." He endorsed a state bill that would have allowed anti-abortion lawyers to represent the state against minors who sought permission from the court to have an abortion without parental permission. He's argued for the use of the death penalty for mentally retarded Death Row inmates.

The end game, of course, is to pack the U.S. Supreme Court with the ideological likes of Owens and Pryor. Staver evokes Martin Luther King Jr. when he waxes lyrical over that day: "I have a dream that we'll have not only lawyers and attorneys that understand Jesus Christ and the gospel but will serve on the Supreme Court of America."

Upon this Rock

Given the Kennedy followers' fixation with the judiciary, it's no surprise that former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore is the most anticipated speaker at the Reclaiming America conference. They've been rallying around him since 2001, when he covertly placed a 5,300-pound granite monument of the Ten Commandments in the rotunda of the Alabama Judicial Building. Three groups, the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and Americans United for Separation of Church and State, filed suit to remove "Roy's Rock." Kennedy's ministry, which filmed the covert installation, has been selling videotapes to help Moore with his legal expenses. (Pryor also has been one of Moore's most vociferous defenders.)

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Wyatt Olson
Contact: Wyatt Olson