Trump Appellate Nominee Says Religion Supersedes Constitution

Anyone serving in the U.S. Government has to abide by the U.S. Constitution as the supreme law of the land, but that is not the ardent belief of Trump’s nominee to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

The idea that the Constitution is secondary to a judge’s religious belief has been a growing threat for at least a couple of decades or so, but now that threat is becoming reality as America lurches toward an evangelical theocracy. For far too long politicians have looked the other way as theocracy-minded evangelicals have infected the government hoping to spread their evangelical beliefs like an incurable cancer.

At least now some members of the Senate realize the danger of a religious fanatic serving as an appeals court judge, but it is likely far too little to stop a serious threat to the rule of law by a Trump nominee who said judges have a duty to put their faith above the Constitution.

Amy Coney Barrett is a practicing conservative Catholic, and is an extraordinarily enthusiastic opponent of a woman’s right to choose. She has written extensively on the Catholic Church’s need to dismantle a long-standing legal medical procedure, Roe v. Wade. Barrett also does not subscribe to the idea of adhering to long-established legal precedents if they conflict with her religious belief that some laws, or Supreme Court rulings “were gross mistakes” because they are not founded on the Christian religion.

Barrett is a law professor at the Catholic Notre Dame University and except for serving as a “law clerk” for dead SCOTUS justice Antonin Scalia and appellate Judge Laurence H. Silberman, she has not served as a judge: and she damn well never should for one very good reason.

According to a recent report from the Alliance for Justice (AFJ):

As a judge, Barrett could be expected to put her personal beliefs ahead of the law. She wrote specifically about the duty of judges to put their faith above the law in an article entitled “Catholic Judges in Capital Cases.” Among other things, she strongly criticized Justice William Brennan’s statement about faith, in which he said that he took an oath to uphold the law, and that “there isn’t any obligation of our faith superior” to that oath. In response, Barrett wrote: “We do not defend this position as the proper response for a Catholic judge to take with respect to abortion or the death penalty.” (author bold)

If that is Barrett’s position, and she has written extensively that it is what she believes,  it automatically disqualifies her for any position in America’s judicial system. No judge, federal or otherwise, can blatantly disregard the only basis for law in the United States, the U.S. Constitution. Barrett claims the law of the land is secondary to a judge’s religious belief.

And, regarding Barrett’s nomination to a life-long position on a federal Circuit Court of Appeals, AFJ’s president Nan Aron said In a statement:

Amy Coney Barrett is a judicial nominee the likes of which we have rarely seen: a person who believes and has stated that judges can and should put their personal beliefs ahead of the law and Constitution when carrying out their duties. Specifically, Barrett has written that judges should put their religious faith ahead of the law in certain cases. She also has written that judges should not have to abide by precedent if they disagree with how past cases were decided. These views are so contrary to our system of democracy and justice that, in our view, they clearly disqualify her for the federal bench.

That AJF report elicited concerns in the Senate leading Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch to ask about her “questionable record” while quoting directly from the AJF report. But Barrett, a self-admitted “conservative Catholic” did what is becoming natural for so-called “conservative Christian” adherents;  she violated her Christian bible’s Ninth Commandment and lied by denying the AJF’s accusations. She responded to Senator Hatch saying:

That is not true. I totally reject and have rejected throughout my entire career the proposition that the end justifies the means or that a judge should decide cases based on a desire to reach a certain outcome.

Barrett’s assertion was quickly called what it was, a dirty lie, by the legal director for Alliance for Justice, Daniel Goldberg who asserted that Barrett’s testimony is “a point-blank lie.” He said:

Look at our report. It quotes Coney Barrett directly.”

California Senator Dianne Feinstein joined Senator Hatch in expressing her deep suspicions about Barrett’s religious extremism. She noted:

When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for for years in this country.”

Minnesota Senator Al Franken actually did the right thing and questioned Barrett’s “fitness to serve” when she claims a judge’s religious beliefs trump the U.S. Constitution. He also rightly chastised “the conservative Catholic’s close ties and communication with the anti-gay Christian hate group Alliance Defending Freedom.”

It isn’t immediately clear who in the Trump administration directed Trump to nominate Barrett as an Appellate Court judge, but it was almost certainly either Mike “preacher” Pence or Jeff ‘bible” Sessions. It may have even been the Christian hate group Alliance Defending Freedom; they all believe the Christian bible supersedes the U.S. Constitution as the law of the land. There is no doubt that the idea of a conservative Catholic panting to overturn Roe on the federal bench almost certainly gave them a 19-year-old’s ‘boner.’

Barrett has no right serving in any capacity as a judge. And no, her religion is not the issue; nobody has any shit to give about what Psalms she sings, how she worships, who she prays to, or what Christian denomination she subscribes. However, every American alive should shudder that Trump is nominating Christian extremists who fervently believe that judges have “a duty to put their faith above the law of the land” because it is a direct line to an oppressive theocracy; exactly what whoever nominated an extremist like Barrett intended.

Image: Patheos

Court Rules Trump Violated the Law In Approving Dakota Pipeline

For the sick souls attempting to keep up with Donald Trump’s illegal activities and deliberate flouting of federal laws, it is getting to be an impossibly tiresome chore and frankly a little more disgusting every day. There are, however, those instances when the federal judiciary issues a ruling that some action Donald Trump performed violated federal law. Although he will never be sent to live out his pathetic life in a federal penitentiary, one can at least revel in the knowledge Trump was caught and called out for doing what career criminals do as a matter of course; violate the law. Yesterday was one of those occasions.

On Wednesday a Federal District Court Judge ruled that in serving the greed of the oil industry, Donald Trump “violated [federal] laws in certain critical respects” when he granted federal permits authorizing the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) to cross the Missouri River upstream of the Standing Rock Reservation. Federal Court Judge James Boasberg used 91 pages to say that the federal permits Trump “hastily issued just days after the [sparsely attended] inauguration” failed on several counts to meet critical federal laws. The Federal Court stopped short of determining whether or not the pipeline operations should be shut down immediately, but that possibility may be in the offing. The Judge requested “additional briefings” on the subject and a “status conference” in the next week.

The Federal Judge wrote, in part:

The Court agrees that [the Corps] did not adequately consider the impacts of an oil spill on fishing rights, hunting rights, or environmental justice, or the degree to which the pipeline’s effects are likely to be highly controversial.”

The Chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux, Dave Archambault II celebrated the ruling saying:

This is a major victory for the Tribe and we commend the courts for upholding the law and doing the right thing. The previous administration painstakingly considered the impacts of this pipeline, and President Trump hastily dismissed these careful environmental considerations in favor of political and personal interests. We applaud the courts for protecting our laws and regulations from undue political influence, and will ask the Court to shut down pipeline operations immediately.”

An attorney for Earthjustice, Jan Hasselman commented thus:

This decision marks an important turning point. Until now, the rights of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe have been disregarded by the builders of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Trump Administration—prompting a well-deserved global outcry. The federal courts have stepped in where our political systems have failed to protect the rights of Native communities.”

It is noteworthy that the Court did not give the “Tribe” everything it wanted, but it did alert the Trump that there are protocols and procedures even an aspiring dictator has to follow; including honoring Treaties and sovereign rights of Native Americans and long-standing environmental regulations and procedures.

Where the Standing Rock Sioux won was convincing the court that Trump allowed the Army Corps of Engineers to proceed without due regard for environmental rules. On Trump’s authority, the Corp failed to:

Sufficiently consider the pipeline’s environmental effects before granting permits to Dakota Access to construct and operate DAPL under Lake Oahe, a federally regulated waterway.  Although the Corps substantially complied with NEPA in many areas, the Court agrees that it did not adequately consider the impacts of an oil spill on fishing rights, hunting rights, or environmental justice, or the degree to which the pipeline’s effects are likely to be highly controversial.

To remedy those violations, the Corps will have to reconsider those sections of its environmental analysis upon remand by the Court. Whether Dakota Access must cease pipeline operations during that remand presents a separate question of the appropriate remedy, which will be the subject of further briefing.”

The Standing Rock lawsuit centered around three primary areas.

First and likely foremost, the federal government is forbidden from taking any federal action that harms “the Standing Rock reservation” or “the Missouri River water the people of Standing Rock depend on.” The Standing Rock Tribe has uncontested “Treaty rights that guarantee the integrity of its reservation” that Earthjustice and the Standing Rock Sioux noted the “Obama administration carefully considered in connection with a leak-prone oil pipeline immediately upstream of the reservation.” Because Trump flouts agreements and treaties his fossil fuel masters refuse to accept, dirty Don disregarded the previous administration’s advice, and compliance with federal law, and “acted as if the Tribe does not exist.”

Second, as Earthjustice noted, Federal law requires a full, transparent and public environmental review for any federal action that has “significant” environmental effects anyplace in the country, not just Native Americans’ sovereign land. The environmental advocate righty noted that there have been “full,  transparent and public environmental reviews for decisions as mundane as off-leash dog areas and allowing jet skis in parks,” and yet there were none for a “30-inch crude-oil pipeline under one of the most economically and culturally important waterways in the nation.”

The third point Earthjustice and the “Tribe” argued in their lawsuit was that whether Trump likes it or not, and this is a particularly prescient point for the Trump to acknowledge:

There are limits on the extent to which one administration can reverse the decisions of its predecessor. While federal agencies can change their minds about matters of policy, the courts will set aside reversals that are not fully justified and explained.”

It is already well-documented that Trump is, and has been, on a tear to reverse every environmental policy and decision made during the Obama Administration; in part out of sheer spite and in part to sate the greed of the fossil fuel industry. That Trump “automatically” granted a permit to DAPL within days of his sparsely-attended inauguration informs even stupid people that he gave no consideration whatsoever to established federal laws, long-standing treaties with Native Americans, or National Environmental Policy Act  (NEPA) requirements.

It remains to be seen if after further review by the Court, including a “status conference” and “additional briefings,” the Judge will shut down the Dakota Access Pipeline. But for now the Standing Rock Sioux can celebrate that even with an adversarial tyrant in the Oval Office working solely for the fossil fuel industry against Native Americans and the environment, a Federal Court ruled in their favor and against Trump for doing what he does as a matter of course; violate the law in “certain critical respects” like the common criminal he really is.