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Sneaking Jesus Into Government
And no, we're not talking about the chocolate one. Dahlia Lithwick writes on Slate about Monica Goodling -- just yet another one of the flock from Pat Robertson's law school flooding into key positions in the Bush administration...in hopes of getting rid of that silly notion of separation of church and state:

Goodling is only one of 150 graduates of Regent University currently serving in this administration, as Regent's Web site proclaims proudly, a huge number for a 29-year-old school. Regent estimates that "approximately one out of every six Regent alumni is employed in some form of government work." And that's precisely what its founder desired. The school's motto is "Christian Leadership To Change the World," and the world seems to be changing apace. Former Attorney General John Ashcroft teaches at Regent, and graduates have achieved senior positions in the Bush administration. The express goal is not only to tear down the wall between church and state in America (a "lie of the left," according to Robertson) but also to enmesh the two.

The law school's dean, Jeffrey A. Brauch, urges in his "vision" statement that students reflect upon "the critical role the Christian faith should play in our legal system." Jason Eige ('99), senior assistant to Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell, puts it pithily in the alumni newsletter, Regent Remark: "Your Résumé Is God's Instrument."

This legal worldview meshed perfectly with that of former Attorney General John Ashcroft—a devout Pentecostal who forbade use of the word "pride," as well as the phrase "no higher calling than public service," on documents bearing his signature. (He also snatched the last bit of fun out of his press conferences when he covered up the bared breasts of the DoJ statue the "Spirit of Justice"). No surprise that, as he launched a transformation of the Justice Department, the Goodlings looked good to him.

A request: Can we, in the future, make an effort to put people into the office whose goal is upholding the Constitution and our laws (or rightly challenging wrong laws on constitutional grounds) -- not those whose main aim is ripping them all up and replacing them with their primitive religious texts?

Posted by aalkon at April 9, 2007 9:50 AM

Comments

Although there is no Constitutional mandate for "separation of Church and State", what these cretins aim to do IS obliterate the Establishment Clause. I mean, what else can you call it when they seek to use their religion as the basis for law, but the establishment of a de facto state religion? Personally, I cannot think of one teaching from Christian doctrine that belongs in civil law.

I'd say it would be appropriate for the government to deny employment at any level to any person who was educated at an institution whose founding goal is to get people to work for government.

The very last thing we need are more career bureaucrats.

But Ashcroft was right about one thing, as there is no LOWER calling than Public Service.

Posted by: brian at April 9, 2007 4:54 AM

Making "no law respecting an establishment of religion" is how it reads -- which is read as freedom FROM religion as well as freedom to worship freely. Religion does not belong in government. If the framers had wanted it to be a part of public life, wouldn't they have been explicit about including it?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at April 9, 2007 6:09 AM

Amy -

No. There is no freedom FROM religion, at least not as you perceive it.

If you would like to abandon religion as a basis for law, then we must start at the beginning, where the merest existence of rights is credited to "The Creator".

And also the centuries of jurisprudence that led to the creation of our system of law, which was derived from Biblical law.

Freedom FROM religion would demand the discarding of all of that. Which is not only illogical and irrational, but damned silly.

The purpose of the First Amendment is quite clear. It was written to prevent the government from establishing a state church (see: Church of England), and to prevent the government from interfering with the rights of believing individuals to worship in the manner in which they see fit (see: the Puritans, Quakers, etc.)

The First Amendment is not there to prevent you from being exposed to religious belief, nor is it there to prevent anyone from using religious beliefs to shape their political ideology.

And no amount of yelling and foot-stomping is going to change it.

Posted by: brian at April 9, 2007 7:13 AM

I kinda agree with Brian. We don't get to choose the motives of others.

Posted by: Crid at April 9, 2007 8:50 AM

John Ashcroft is a religious nut job, but he was one of the last competent members of the Bush Cabinet. One of the most under reported stories in DC was his attempts to reign in and supervise any Patriot Act based investigations post 9/11. Some key members of the White House saw Ashcroft as not a team player. Replace him with one of Bush's Yes Men from Austin, TX. Package a nice immigrant and being the first Latino A.G. story to deflect any future criticism.

Another story is the strange college where the White House obtains a majority of their interns. No, its not Harvard, Yale, Princeton or Stanford, but a start up evangelical institution called the Patrick Henry College.

Posted by: Joe at April 9, 2007 9:05 AM

Would we be expected to feel better if it were Harvard and Yale?

Listen, you can't complain about everything all the time. WHOEVER had been appointed AG would have been a political choice. If you think it's time for more Latinos in government, you can't be shocked, shocked when it they arrive in a political context.

Ashcroft wasn't as wack as some people say. Faint praise, but there it is

Posted by: Crid at April 9, 2007 9:24 AM

It's not about how I would feel about the issue. The standard practice for White House interns was usually from the ivy league schools. I'm in favor of breaking traditions and there are plenty of upstanding religious based colleges and universities all over the USA, but 90% of the interns come from one bible college.

Posted by: Joe at April 9, 2007 9:38 AM

I know a woman who was an intern at the White House in 1995. Not THAT intern, a different one. She has good stories. She says she entered the project with almost perfect naiveté, thinking she wanted an internship on that coast: "I'll go to the White House!" And it worked. I can't remember what her school was, but I'm pretty sure her grades were spotless.

Posted by: Crid at April 9, 2007 10:05 AM

Would we be expected to feel better if it were Harvard and Yale?

I would. When in doubt, go with the smart kids who have their shit together enough to get into really competitive schools. I'm not saying that these are the only places where you'll find really talented young people. But as a rule of thumb, you could do worse.

Can we, in the future, make an effort to put people into the office whose goal is upholding the Constitution and our laws

Well, we can start by looking to elect people not blessed by the theocratic right (i.e., Dobson, Fallwell, Robertson, etc.). Right now, they're big on Romney, Hunter, Thompson, but cool on Giuliani. Newt did his mea culpa to them, and McCain's busy sucking up to them as fast as he can, that straight talker. I'd bet Rudy is the only Republican who can win without owing them a big solid once in office.

Ashcroft wasn't as wack as some people say

True. I really didn't care for many of his actions in office (cover the boobs on Lady Justice!!!), but he was his own man, not a Bush toady. Sure, he was brought in to appease the religious right and garner their support for the Powell appointment, but he wasn't a wholly-owned subsidiary of BushCo like Gonzales.

Posted by: justin case at April 9, 2007 10:49 AM

Normally, it is 60/40 or 50/50 from the various schools. There will always be exceptions to the rule. Another qualification is political connections.

Posted by: Joe at April 9, 2007 10:50 AM

Bush ruined Powells career. Powell was the only dude in that group that knew how to handle the UN.

Posted by: PurplePen at April 9, 2007 10:56 AM

> go with the smart kids who
> have their shit together
> enough

Or whose parents have the mu$cle to pull strings?

> a wholly-owned subsidiary

I hate that line! Molly Whatserface of Texas used to use that too. Before she died, I mean. Maybe it was Maureen Dowd. What exactly does it mean? Fer cryin' out loud, the guy was appointed AG by his President. Would you expect more or less loyalty than Reno gave? Than Mitchell had for Nixon? Than Meese had for Reagan? The problem with this administration is not that Bush's people are too loyal to him, it's that he's too loyal to them. Ask Harriet Myers.

> Bush ruined Powells career

It's kind of weird to say that Powell's career was "ruined." He was an old guy and a historic figure anyway. There were only a couple of jobs in the world for which he'd have surrendered his private sector opportunities. When people playing chess at that level move their pieces, they should be expected to accept the consequences without tears or commiseration.

> Powell was the only dude in that group that knew how to handle the UN.

Well, he was the only one in the group eager to work with it in that old-time, cold war style. I'll always be grateful to Bush for deciding that a new day had dawned, no matter how badly he fucked things up at Turtle Bay (and elsewhere) by sunset.

Posted by: Crid at April 9, 2007 12:01 PM

Agreed, Justin.

Bush's first term was populated with independent thinkers who will say to the POTUS or even the VPOTUS. "No, you are wrong." Not one of them survived into the second term.

The difference between Bush (41) and Bush (43) was the level of competence of their respective cronies. A James Baker will openly disagree with Bush (41). So would a Brent Skrowcroft and a Richard Darman. Now apply the same standard to Condi Rice, Alberto Gonzales or any of the current W.H. toadies.

Every major DC reporter stated that Gonzales was out of this league at the DOJ. Even the journalists who are sympathetic to the White House agreed with the statement. Also, FBI Director Mueller admitted that the abuse of investigative powers by the Bureau was under Gonzales' tenure and not Ashcroft.

Posted by: Joe at April 9, 2007 12:04 PM

Janet always seemed over her head to me, even before Waco.

Posted by: Crid at April 9, 2007 12:08 PM

It was a little more complex about Powell's career. Powell destroyed it himself, because he underestimated Rumsfeld. The former Sec of State thought he could charm Rumy and failed miserably. Donald Rumsfeld is one of the best government infighters ever. You cannot charm an ex-wrestler. They are thick necks who will fight and keep fighting until you give up.

If you were ever in a situation you needed a right hand guy or a second... Donald Rumsfeld would be the perfect choice.

Posted by: Joe at April 9, 2007 12:21 PM

Also, Janet was not first choice for the A.G. spot.

Posted by: Joe at April 9, 2007 12:30 PM

Exactly. Never forget that Rumsfeld and Bush/41 were fierce rivals for most of their careers. As LBJ used to say, better to have 'em inside the tent pissin' out than outside the tent pissin' in.

Posted by: Crid at April 9, 2007 12:32 PM

Was Reno too loyal, not loyal enough, or just right?

Let's ask Elian!

Posted by: Crid at April 9, 2007 12:33 PM

I hate that line! Molly Whatserface of Texas used to use that too. Before she died, I mean. Maybe it was Maureen Dowd. What exactly does it mean?

You know exactly what it means, I imagine. But I'll spell it out - it means he owes his rise to political prominence to Bush. From Texas to White House Counsel to A.G. He got there because of his fealty to Bush. Contrast this with Ashcroft, who was a former governor (I think) and Senator (I know) from Missouri. The man had a successful political life outside of Bush.

Posted by: justin case at April 9, 2007 12:35 PM

OK, but never whine about cronyism or old-boy networks, OK? I maintain that the problem is not that he's too beholden to Bush. Bush got elected, and then elected again. He was given precisely that authority, it seems churlish to be surprised that he used it.

Posted by: Crid at April 9, 2007 12:40 PM

Let's ask Elian!

He'd probably say he wants to be with his dad. I never understood why all of the pro-family people got so worked up over that.

Posted by: justin case at April 9, 2007 12:40 PM

He was given precisely that authority, it seems churlish to be surprised that he used it.

It's not the man's authority I have a problem with, it's the piss-poor judgment with which it has been exercised. He's a master at appointing hacks to important positions.

Posted by: justin case at April 9, 2007 12:45 PM

Again again- You think Reno's resume brought effective performance to the office?

Listen, Gonzales deserves low marks. But not just for being green or loyal. We want presidents to be free to appoint people like that.

Posted by: Crid at April 9, 2007 12:51 PM

Again again- You think Reno's resume brought effective performance to the office?

Not especially. But I think that people with strong resumes are more likely to be better performers than those without them.

We want presidents to be free to appoint people like that.

Agreed. But it sure does suck when their instincts are terrible in this regard.

Posted by: justin case at April 9, 2007 1:09 PM

Yes. The history for this guy is going to be a fun --if brutal and heartbreaking-- read. Once the passions that inflame the "stupid cowboy" rhetoric have cooled, I think people are going to see a lot of interesting forces were at work.

Posted by: Crid at April 9, 2007 1:13 PM

Also, remember the revolving door policy during the Clinton Administration. Clinton was too eager to replace people within his administration. There should be a sense of moderation in the firing/hiring practices between the two pole opposites of Bush and Clinton.

Funny thing, the Beltway Press believed that Rumsfeld was going to the first of the Bush Cabinet to leave back in the Spring of 2001.

George HW Bush believed Rumsfeld took him off the list when Ford was choosing VPs after Nixon's resignation. Also, Powell wasn't the first media superstar to fall victim to the Rumsfeld Way. Henry Kissinger got knocked off his pedestal back in August, 1974. Rumy understood Kissinger's main weakness... power and celebrity. Henry could keep the title Secretary of State, but without the power and prestige. Foreign policy would be directed by the POTUS, DOD and the NSC with the State Dept’s endorsement.

Colin Powell should have known better.

Posted by: Joe at April 9, 2007 1:25 PM

If anyone is offended by the little green strips of government issued paper that read "In God We Trust". You can send all you have to me.

Posted by: winston at April 9, 2007 1:29 PM

> moderation in the firing/hiring
> practices between the two
> pole opposites

The Crid adminstration has yet to announce its cabinet nominees, but I'd wager that there's no golden mean that can deliver the goods. Some executives know when to hire and fire, others don't. So long as it's tax dollars being spent, we could and should tolerate less dynamism that we got from Bush 43 and more than we got from Clinton if it will MAKE THINGS WORK. These aren't sinecures.

Posted by: Crid at April 9, 2007 1:33 PM

Crid -

It's government. By definition, it CANNOT MAKE THINGS WORK.

The solution, therefore, is to strip it of as much power, prestige, and authority as possible so it can do less harm.

Posted by: brian at April 9, 2007 3:00 PM

I am enlightened about Powell, Rumy, and the like. My opinions have been changed.

Posted by: PurplePen at April 9, 2007 3:01 PM

we could and should tolerate less dynamism that we got from Bush 43 and more than we got from Clinton if it will MAKE THINGS WORK. These aren't sinecures.

Word. Especially that last bit. Quality people doing quality work. Wouldn't it be nice.

Posted by: justin case at April 9, 2007 3:04 PM

I recommend reading or re-reading F.A. Hayek's "The Road to Serfdom", especially Chapter 10: Why the Worst Get on Top.

It is a much better explanation to the rise of Hillary Clinton.

Posted by: Joe at April 9, 2007 3:15 PM

> By definition, it CANNOT
> MAKE THINGS WORK.

Not ten minutes ago I had a satisfactory experience on the Interstate Highway system.

> My opinions have been
> changed.

Well, you're new, so we'll let it go... But don't let it happen again.

Seriously, Joe is five kinds of right about Rumsfeld.

Posted by: Crid at April 9, 2007 3:21 PM

Too bad Rumsfeld has been ten kinds of wrong about Iraq....

Posted by: deja pseu at April 9, 2007 3:42 PM

When? 1984 or 2004?

Posted by: Crid at April 9, 2007 4:09 PM

Just a little FYI on Patrick Henry College. It's a recent start-up (less than six years old) in suburban Northern Virginia that specifically gears its recruitment to the home-schooled children of evangelical Christians. It currently has about 200 resident students. It's not yet accredited regionally or nationally. Fortunately, PHC does have a "Biblical Worldview" which I imagine is a vast relief to prospective students and parents.

As for Regent University's law school, I have some knowledge of its vaunted past. As recently as the early 90's, Regent was still floating in and out of ABA accreditation status, typically shutting down facilities like the law library two to three days a week. I was a student at William and Mary's law school during that period and Regent students often had to drive 90 minutes from Virginia Beach to use our law school's library. They reported that their classes were often canceled without notice due to lack of funding for basics like salaries and facilities operation.

To be fair, it is likely that the quality of Regent's curriculum, and the caliber of its students, has increased a bit in the past 15 years. However, it seems a bit incredible that so many Regent students qualify as the "best and brightest" young legal minds in America, beating out thousands of candidates from better schools, with better grades, federal clerkship experience, and a litany of fantastic credentials, for the 150-175 entry-level attorney positions available at DOJ each year.

Sure, Presidents will always give their friends high-level posts, regardless of resume strength. One can also expect that the high-level appointees will employ like-minded minions to serve as their deputies (a la Monica Goodling and Kyle Sampson). It is a bit more unsettling to see those same high-level appointees consistently applying political and religious checklists (and in some cases hit lists) for candidates applying for entry-level jobs, or even six-week summer internships. Pepperdine grad with Federalist Socity membership? Welcome aboard! Yale grad previously employed by a Democratic congressman? Thanks but we'll be removing your name from the interview selection list. Previous internship experience with Focus on the Family? Sign him up! Previous internship experience providing pro bono legal assistance to indigent, inner-city Hispanics? Um, no. [Yes, I am speaking from personal experience on this subject. No, I don't want to elaborate at this time!]

Posted by: Ms. Gandhi at April 9, 2007 4:11 PM

Ms. G -

The question becomes "Why in the world would someone with intellect and talent want to waste them on government service?"

Posted by: brian at April 9, 2007 5:41 PM

Brian,

Some people still believe in public service. Also, not all government work is incompetent. If that was the case we wouldn't have gotten passed the 13 colonies.

Posted by: Joe at April 9, 2007 6:13 PM

past, not passed

Posted by: Joe at April 9, 2007 6:16 PM

This story is disturbing, but this is why we have elections. In two short years, all these Patrick Henry College alums will be back where they belong, pushing paper at some small business with a Jesus fish on its letterhead.

Posted by: Gary S. at April 10, 2007 6:57 AM

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