Democrats Sensitive to Alleged 'Assault on People of Faith'

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:22 PM EDT

( - Sen. Bill Frist's participation in a "Justice Sunday" telecast has offended and/or alarmed a number of Democrats and liberal interest groups.

Critics particularly object to the notion that Democrats, by opposing ten of President Bush's conservative judicial nominees, are conducting an assault on "people of faith."

On April 24, the Family Research Council hosting a live "simulcast" to churches across the country, hoping to engage conservative "values voters" in the effort to rein in "out-of-control" courts.

Frist and a number of conservative religious leaders will address court decisions that have "not only changed our nation's course, but even led to the taking of human lives," the FRC said in a press release announcing the event

Democrats and liberal interest groups are outraged by the "shameless manipulation of religion for political gain," as one critic called it.

"On behalf of people of faith who hold a wide spectrum of political and religious views, I urge Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist to reconsider taking part in the 'Justice Sunday' telecast and repudiate all attempts to demonize those who do not agree with the Christian Right," said the Rev. Carlton Veazey, president of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.

"The telecast's stated purpose is to persuade millions of Christians that opponents of the Republican judicial strategy are against them and against their faith."

Veazey said Democrats, by filibustering ten of Bush's judicial nominees, are defending the established rights and freedoms important to all Americans, and he lists those established rights as civil rights, reproductive rights, workers' and environment protections, and the right to practice one's religion without government interference.

"In charging the Democrats with persecution of Christians, the Republicans risk fomenting religious and ethnic hatred such as this nation has never seen," Veazey said.

He called for a "compromise in the battle over the courts," but Democrats have expressed no intention of compromising on the ten nominees they continue to block from an up-or-down vote by the full Senate.

"Senator Frist can take the first step by rejecting the shameless manipulation of religion for political gain and bowing out of 'Justice Sunday,'" Veazey said.

Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said Sen. Frist's should "forcefully disassociate" himself from the claim that the campaign against Bush's judicial nominees is an assault on people of faith.

He called the April 24 telecast "disingenuous, dangerous and demagogic."

"Senator Frist must not give legitimacy to those who claim they hold a monopoly on faith. They do not," Saperstein said.

He said conservatives have been "unable to ram through the most extreme of the President's nominees, and now they are spinning new claims out of thin air."

Saperstein also criticized President Bush's silence on claims that Democrats are engaged in a "filibuster against faith."

The Anti-Defamation League accused Frist of "playing the religious card."

Politicians cry foul

Senate Democrats, appearing on various weekend talk shows, also urged Frist to reconsider his participation in the Justice Sunday event.

Frist is planning to videotape a speech that will be part of the live broadcast. His message will be "fair treatment" of President Bush's nominees, Frist's spokesman was quoted as saying.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), appearing on ABC's "This Week," called the event "deeply un-American," and he objected to the notion that the filibuster of judicial nominees is "people of faith versus the Democrats."

Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) said Democrats are blocking nominees with "radical" views. "It has nothing to do with the Bible," he told Fox News Sunday.

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