Life in 21st Century Washington, DC:
The Heresy Trial of Arlen Specter

Revolutionary Worker #1262, December 19, 2004, posted at

On November 3, as those who hate and are outraged by what Bush had carried out during his first administration contemplated with horror the thought of a second Bush administration, right-wing Christian forces were gripped by a euphoria they usually reserve for thoughts of the "rapture." These Christian fascists are not satisfied with how much power they have gained and how far they have advanced their reactionary agenda in the past four years. They aim to take things to a whole new level.

Richard Viguerie, a major leader of the Christian right, declared while watching the election returns, "Now comes the revolution. If you don’t implement a conservative agenda now, when do you?"

Bob Jones III, president of the Christian fundamentalist Bob Jones University, wrote in a letter to Bush, "In your re-election, God has graciously granted America—though she doesn’t deserve it—a reprieve from the agenda of paganism. You have been given a mandate. We the people expect your voice to be like the clear and certain sound of a trumpet. Because you seek the Lord daily, we who know the Lord will follow that kind of voice eagerly. Don’t equivocate. Put your agenda on the front burner and let it boil. You owe the liberals nothing. They despise you because they despise your Christ. Honor the Lord, and He will honor you.." Jones wrote that only by adopting "legislation that is defined by Biblical norm regarding the family, sexuality, sanctity of life, religious freedom," can America get right with god.

And Bush, a Christian fundamentalist himself, said, "I earned political capital in the campaign, and now I intend to spend it."

What is the "Biblical norm" that these forces believe that this country must turn to? They are talking about a society based on a literal reading of the Bible—a theocracy where there is no separation of church and state.

One of the first post-election targets of these Christian fascists was Arlen Specter, a Republican who has been Pennsylvania’s senator for the last 24 years. Specter was in line to become chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which oversees appointments to the Supreme Court and other federal courts.

Specter might at first glance seem like an unlikely target of the Christian fascists. In 2003 he voted with the Christian Coalition 83 percent of the time. He led the fight for the confirmation of ultra-conservative Clarence Thomas as Supreme Court justice. (When Anita Hill, who had worked with Thomas, revealed that she had been sexually harassed by him, Specter accused her of "flat-out perjury.") Specter voted for all of Bush’s first- term judicial appointments.

But right after the election, Specter remarked that Supreme Court appointees who do not uphold the Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion may have a difficult time making it through the Senate confirmation process. For this fairly innocuous comment—as well as for his support for stem-cell research and his opposition to the nomination of the extreme conservative Robert Bork to the Supreme Court nearly 20 years ago—Specter became the target of the avengers and inquisitors of the Christian fascists.

In a television interview, James Dobson, founder of the Christian fundamentalist group Focus on the Family, said that Specter "is a problem, and he must be derailed." New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote that Dobson’s threats against Specter made him sound "more like the head of a mob family than a ministry."

The Christian fascists mobilized to flood Republican members of the Judiciary Committee with thousands and thousands of e-mails and faxes. They held "pray-ins" outside Specter’s office and packed Senate committee meetings with their crusaders.

Like someone going before the Spanish Inquisition, Specter was forced to draft a humiliating pledge saying that he would not oppose any of Bush’s judicial nominees on the basis of their opposition to Roe v. Wade. He wrote that he had "assured the president that I would give his nominees quick committee hearings and early committee votes.’’ He vowed to help change the Senate’s filibuster rule that the Democrats had used to oppose some of Bush’s most extreme appointments to the federal courts.

The filibuster rule is a longstanding part of the U.S. political system going back to 1790 when senators used the tactic to prevent Philadelphia from being named the national capital. The rule allows members of the minority party in the Senate to block actions of the majority by requiring a vote of 60 senators—rather than the simple majority of 51—to stop debate. Changing the filibuster rule would be a major change in the way the U.S. political system has functioned over the last 200 years. This is an example of the point New York Times columnist Paul Krugman made in his book The Great Unraveling , that "America’s right wing a movement that doesn’t accept the legitimacy of our current political system."

The campaign against Specter is a sign of how deadly serious the Christian fascists are about solidifying control of the Supreme Court and the federal judiciary, as an important part of pushing through their overall reactionary program and drive toward a theocratic state.


The Bush re-election represents a leap in the role and initiative for Christian fascist forces in U.S. society. Many people are unaware of the extent to which these forces are already in key positions within the government, the courts, and the military. The list below gives just a few examples. (Esther Kaplan’s book With God on Their Side gives a detailed look at how Christian fundamentalists have become entrenched in powerful positions within the state.)

Tom DeLay, majority leader in the House of Representatives. DeLay is one of the most powerful people in Congress. He said in July 2001, "I don’t believe there is a separation of church and state." On another occasion DeLay said, "He [God] is using me, all the time, everywhere, to stand up for a biblical worldview in everything that I do and everywhere I am." "He is training me," DeLay said at another luncheon.

Kay Cole James, head of the U.S. Department of Personnel Management . In this position, James is in charge of all hiring for the government. James was a dean at Pat Robertson’s Regency University. (A regent is somebody who rules in the absence of the king. Robertson’s school aims to create regents who will rule until the kingdom of Christ is established.) James was also a former vice president of the Family Research Council. Her 1995 book likened gay people to alcoholics, adulterers, and drug addicts.

Army Lieutenant General William G. "Jerry" Boykin, Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence. Boykin has given talks, sometimes in his military uniform, at fundamentalist churches describing the U.S. as "a Christian nation," asserting that Bush had been "appointed by God," and declaring that the enemy in the "war on terrorism" is "a guy named Satan." He has said that Christians believe in "a real god," whereas the god of Islam is "an idol."

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Bush says that Scalia and Clarence Thomas are the justices he admires most. Scalia wrote in an article that "government...derives its moral authority from God. It is the ’minister of God’ with powers to ’revenge,’ to ’execute wrath,’ including even wrath by the sword." Scalia has publicly attacked the idea of separation of church and state.

Alma Golden, in charge of the government’s family planning program . Golden believes that abstinence should be the only method of birth control.

Claude Allen, number two position in the Department of Health and Human Services. Allen takes a hard anti-abortion position and advocates Christian home schools and replacing sex education with an abstinence-only approach.

David Hager, member of the Federal Drug Administration’s Reproductive Drug Advisory Committee . A physician and Christian book author, Hager had led the Christian right’s effort to block FDA approval of the "morning after" pill RU-486. Hager refuses to prescribe contraceptives to unmarried women and has written that Christian prayers can be used to treat PMS, headaches, and cancer. Hager has bragged that he once sterilized a 20-year-old woman without her consent.

Tom Coburn, co-chair of the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. A former congressman, Coburn served on the anti-gay Family Research Council’s board of directors. At a Republican meeting this spring, Coburn said: "The gay community has infiltrated the very centers of power in every area across this country, and they wield extreme power... That agenda is the greatest threat to our freedom that we face today. Why do you think we see the rationalization for abortion and multiple sexual partners? That’s a gay agenda." Coburn has now been elected to the U.S. Senate from Oklahoma.

Rev. Lou Sheldon, advisor to a "faith-based" summit which launched Bush’s "faith- based initiative." Sheldon is the founder of the rabidly anti-gay Traditional Values Coalition.

James Leon Holmes, appointed to a federal court in Arkansas in July 2004. Holmes said, "Christianity transcends the political order and cannot be subordinate to the political order." He also said, "To the extent we adopt the feminist principle that the distinction between the sexes is of no consequence and should be disregarded in the organization of society...we are contributing to the culture of death."

William Pryor, appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11 th District . Pryor has called Roe "the worst abomination in the history of constitutional law." Speaking out in support of Judge Roy Moore’s display of a five-ton Ten Commandments monument at the Alabama Supreme Court, Pryor declared, "God has chosen, through his son, Jesus Christ, this time and this place for all Christians to save our country and to save our courts." In a brief in the Lawrence v. Texas Supreme Court case (which struck down state laws that criminalized gay sex), Pryor compared gay sex to bestiality, pedophilia, incest, prostitution, and necrophilia.