May 31, 2019
Senate Republicans have one shot at federal judgeship right. If they're right, the country has the benefits of years of strict originalism. If they're wrong, Americans will pay for it -- for a lifetime. Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) isn't willing to take that chance in Michael Bogren's case, not when religious liberty is on the line.
"Lawyers have a duty to their clients," Senator Hawley agrees, "but that's no excuse to launch gratuitous attacks on the faithful." And in a case against a Christian family in Michigan, that's exactly what Michael Bogren did. His statements aren't the stuff of years-old religious intolerance. The case that's raising eyebrows is still ongoing. It involves a family farm, whose owners -- a Catholic couple -- believe in natural marriage. For that, the city of East Lansing decided they should be banned from selling their fruit at the local farmer's market.
Michael Bogren didn't have to take the case against the Tennes family. But when East Lansing asked him to defend their religious hostility in court, he said yes. Bogren also didn't have to use the kind of scorched-earth language he did to characterize the family. That was his choice. He was the one who decided to compare Christians to the KKK -- and then stand by that rhetoric in his confirmation hearing. No one forced him to say that the Tenneses were "para[ding]" their beliefs down a "runway of moral superiority" either. Or questioning the family's "selective" application of faith.
The editors of the Wall Street Journal disagree. They think "Mr. Hawley's questioning is a precedent that conservatives will regret." Why? Because, they claim, "If nominees can be disqualified for every argument they make for a client, conservative judicial nominees will soon find themselves blocked from judgeships for defending religious liberty." But Senator Hawley is an attorney himself. He knows that you can defend a client "without stooping to personal attacks and vicious rhetoric."
"As attorneys, our oaths require us to do much more than advocate on our clients' behalf. We also swear to uphold the law itself and to always conduct ourselves with integrity. And that means not launching gratuitous attacks against faith groups -- especially when you represent the government. It's one thing to advocate on behalf of your client, but Bogren went too far."
The leaders of the Conservative Action Project agree. In a memo to the movement, signed by dozens of national leaders, they're stunned that Republicans would even consider a man whose "religious bias lack[s] even the usual effort of thin disguise..."
"Bogren could and should have declined to answer questions regarding ongoing litigation. Instead, he chose to double down on arguments which sharply narrow the First Amendment's protections regarding religious liberty. Bogren is nominated for a lifetime appointment. We believe that his suspect judicial philosophy as it relates to America's First Freedom renders him unqualified for this position. We urge that his nomination be withdrawn."
Stand with Senator Hawley and Christians across America, who already know the consequences of appointing judges to the bench with an obvious bias toward religious expression. Contact your senators and urge them to vote NO on Michael Bogren.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.