(CNSNews.com) - A religious watchdog group Wednesday called efforts by the Bush administration to promote Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers' religion "appalling" and "hypocritical."
"We're picking a Supreme Court justice here, not a Sunday school teacher," said Americans United for Separation of Church and State executive director Rev. Barry Lynn in a statement. "President Bush and his allies should be talking about Miers' knowledge of the Constitution, not the Bible."
Lynn pointed to President Bush's remarks Wednesday defending his pick as the next justice to succeed Sandra Day O' Connor, saying people want to know why he picked Miers.
"They want to know Harriet Miers' background. They want to know as much as they possibly can before they form opinions. Part of Harriet Miers' life is her religion," said Bush.
Lynn accused the Bush administration of using a religious litmus test in selecting federal court nominees. On June 25, 2002, Bush said he would choose judges who "understand that our rights were derived from God," Lynn noted.
"Any such religious selectivity by the president would violate Article VI of our Constitution, which forbids any religious test for public office. Did Bush pick Miers because of her religious viewpoint instead of her legal qualifications? If he did, that is a disservice to the Constitution and the diversity of the American people," said Lynn.
Lynn said the Bush administration's touting of Miers' religion as a means to persuade the religious right to back her is hypocritical compared to its treatment of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.
"We were told we weren't even allowed to bring up the topic of religion when John G. Roberts was nominated for the Supreme Court," Lynn said. "Anyone who did was quickly labeled a bigot.
"Now Bush and Rove are touting where Miers goes to church and using that as a selling point," Lynn continued. "The hypocrisy is staggering."
Lynn noted that Focus on the Family founder James Dobson shared his conversation with White House adviser Karl Rove during his radio program, saying Rove assured him Miers is "an evangelical Christian from a very conservative church, which is almost universally pro-life."
In addition, Lynn pointed to Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson's remarks on a recent "700 Club" show, saying that if Miers is confirmed, she will be "the first evangelical Christian who has been elevated to the Supreme Court in well over 70 years."
Lynn also chastised the religious right for "playing along" with the administration's tactics.
"If a nominee's personal religious views are off the table," Lynn said, "why am I not hearing howls of protest from Jerry Falwell, Tony Perkins, Jay Sekulow and others about this cynical exploitation of religion for crass political purposes?"
Dobson Says He Didn't Discuss Roe v Wade With Karl Rove (Oct. 12, 2005)
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