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August 14, 2005
JSII Press Conference

3:03 PM CT - We're waiting to get the press conference started -- it should have started a couple of moments ago, but we have had a couple of technical difficulties ...

3:07 - The local Fox affiliate is interviewing Joe Carter while we wait for the press conference to start.

3:12 - Tony Perkins from the FRC opens with his statement and introductions. Rebecca St. James and Chuck Colson are probably the two most well-known names here ...

3:14 - Chuck Colson says he can't understand why the New York Times considers this so controversial. All they want to see is justice, not money or power. The message of justice has always been central to Christianity. He said he thanks God that Martin Luther King fought for justice 40 years ago ...

3:17 - Ted Haggard: When churches stop adhering to the Bible and instead rely on individual interpretations, then they lose their foundation of truth and float along on personalities instead. The same is true with judges who don't stick to the literal and limited words of the Constitution. He argues, he says, for the rule of law instead of personalities.

3:19 - Jim Daly, Focus on the Family: We will spare no funding to push for conservative judges. He points out the overwhelming rejection of gay marriage in every election where voters had the option to choose.

3:21 - Bishop Harry Jackson of Washington DC wants to give the view of the African-American community. "If justice matters to anyone in America, it matters to minorities..." They don't want maverick judges changing the law at the last minute. He uses a sports analogy to illuminate that. He wants justice based on the Bible -- that to me crosses a line. I want justice based on the Constitution. Otherwise, good strong speech.

3:25 - Cathy Cleaver Ruse talks about the enshrinement of pornographers as Constitutional heroes and abortionists as a Constitutionally endorsed vocation. She is one of the few Catholics on the panel, by the way ...

3:27 - Rebecca St. James, an Australian Grammy-winning Christian singer, speaks with some passion about talking to young people and teaching them right from wrong, the consequences of sin, and her efforts to teach that through her music.

3:29 - First question from a filmmaker putting together a documentary about trying to find God. He asked about mixing faith and the political system. Tony Perkins notes that they do not claim to speak for everyone, only for themselves, and they have no desire to impose but just to participate. The rebuttal question asked about the "tyranny of the majority", but Chuck Colson notes that democracy means that everyone participates. He says that evangelicals sometimes talk "triumphalistically", a sin from which they should repent.

3:35 - Reuters wants to know if Tom DeLay is ducking the press (he's not here yet). One of the panelists says "he's delayed".

3:38 - Bill Frist was not uninvited -- they wanted a Congressman this time after having a Senator the last time. They say that Frist's position on stem cells have no bearing on the issue of justices.

3:40 - Q: What would happen to abortion and homosexuality without activist judges? A: It will move the issues to the legislatures where they belong. You never reach consensus or agreement without the participation of the people.

3:43 - Bishop Jackson notes the difference between the Constitutional process (amendment) and interpretation - and that the best protection that minorities can have is to insist on the process rather than individual interpretation. Ruse: No one benefits when judges act as a superlegislature. Women's rights and civil rights actually come from the process and not interpretation. [CE: Plessy v Ferguson gives a great example of how interpretation hobbled minorities in the past.]

Recap: The press appears skeptical, at best, of the idea that JSII is all about simply participating in the political process. One of the concerns brought up (by the first questioner) is the affect on the church of diluting the word of God by using the pulpit for temporal politics. That, of course, is a question that has afflicted just about every world religion of any heft across the millenia. We aren't likely to answer it here, but it is an interesting question to ponder.

I wanted to ask how Ted Haggard and Bishop Jackson could reconcile their differing statemens about basing the judiciary on the Constitution and the Bible, but I couldn't get their attention during the Q&A.

UPDATE: I got a chance to pose my question to Rev. Haggard afterwards:

Rev. Haggard: Just as churches get order from the Bible, justices get order from the laws ... [Bishop Jackson] was saying that there was a process to amend [the Constitution]. If "living Constitution" means a Constitution that can be amended and changed, then we embrace that. If "living Constitution" means that words don't mean today what they meant when they were written, so that we can add meaning to the words or change the meaning of words, then we're not for that. He was advocating that justices, rather than add their own meaning, to change the Constitution. What we say is that there are two ways to change the Constitution. One is two-thirds of the House, two-thirds of the Senate, two thirds of the states, and the President's signature -- or -- five Supreme Court justices.

CQ: And that's the part you want to get rid of.

Rev. Haggard: [laughs] Well, obviously. It's easiest to change it by persuading five Supreme Court justices. So that the foundation of our system is based on judicial restraint. If a case comes before the judges that shouldn't be in the judiciary, that they throw it back into the legislature. That has been what the current court has been unwilling to do.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 14, 2005 3:04 PM

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