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Up or Down

Charles Colson

Never before in American history have judges been filibustered.

They've always been given an up or down vote under the advice and consent clause of the Constitution. But a minority in the Senate is blocking good, decent, well-qualified judges simply because of ideology: They are strict constructionists. This is an outrage, and we need to express that outrage vigorously now.

Let me clarify two things that cloud the debate. First of all, those of us who are Christian are being told that we are using religion against our opponents. It has been said repeatedly in the press and by various senators that those of us who have been advocating that the Senate change its rules and bring these judges to a vote are impugning the religious faith of the senators blocking the vote, of saying that opposition senators are not as good Christians as we are.

Now, let me tell you something: I've been in Washington most of my life, and this may be the most preposterous charge I have ever heard. I reread what people have said in this debate, and no one has challenged the faith of anybody on the other side not Ted Kennedy or Joseph Biden or Harry Reid. And to accuse us of doing so is nothing but a smear.

The other side of that coin is that we are being told that as people of faith we have no place in the debate. I suppose they think it is okay for us to speak out as citizens, but if we talk from a faith perspective, we are perverting or corrupting the political system.


This is an old tactic. When William Wilberforce, the great Christian parliamentarian, in the latter part of the eighteenth century mounted his campaign against the slave trade, he was attacked for bringing Christianity into public life.

This is an old tactic. When William Wilberforce, the great Christian parliamentarian, in the latter part of the eighteenth century mounted his campaign against the slave trade, he was attacked for bringing Christianity into public life.

The same charge was made during the 1840s and 1850s in America as the abolitionists challenged slavery in this country. Many of the most prominent abolitionists were moved by their Christianity and used Christian arguments in public debate. And why not? Slavery is an abomination to God.

In the 1860 campaign, Lincoln was charged with trying to impose his moral views on American life. Of course he was trying to win a moral victory, and the world is a better place for it.

So nothing is new today. The senators are claiming that they're trying to keep ideologues off the bench. But isn't it interesting that all these so-called "ideologues" are pro-life and pro-family?

So, who is using religion? Not Christian groups who are rallying the Senate to vote. It's those trying to discredit judicial nominees. They are applying a religious test for office, something the Constitution specifically prohibits. And those of us speaking out as citizens and as Christians are being maligned just the way Wilberforce, Lincoln, and others have been maligned.

But do not be intimidated. What is at stake here is whether we can enact morals legislation in the future, whether it can remain on the books or whether the courts are going to knock it down, as they have been doing consistently for the last thirty years. The future character of the courts in America, whether courts will continue to legislate from the bench or simply interpret the law as the Constitution requires them to, are tied to these votes this week. So call or e-mail your two senators today. Tell them the job of a senator is not to obstruct; it's to vote. As a believer, you have a right and a duty to make your voice heard.

For further reading and information:

Take action: Call your two senators (202-224-3121; and ask them to change the Senate rules so that a simple majority would be necessary to confirm a judge: End the filibuster.

BreakPoint Commentary No. 050425, A Constitutional Travesty: Why the Filibuster Must Go.

Frist: Filibuster showdown could come next week, CNN, 10 May 2005.

Laurie Kellman, Sen. Harry Reid Reveals Sharp Tongue, Washington Post, 10 May 2005.

Michelle Mittelstadt, Texas judge at center of Senate face-off, Kansas City Star, 9 May 2005.

Ramesh Ponnuru and Robert P. George, Independence Day, National Review, 10 May 2005.

Byron York, The Answer Is in the Works, National Review, 10 May 2005.

Kevin Belmonte, Hero for Humanity (NavPress, 2002).


Charles Colson. "Up or Down." BreakPoint Commentary May 11, 2005.

From BreakPoint (05/11/2005), Copyright 2000, Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with the permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries, P.O. Box 17500, Washington, D.C. 20041-0500. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or distributed without the express written permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. "BreakPoint " and "Prison Fellowship Ministries " are registered trademarks of Prison Fellowship Ministries.


Charles Colson launched Prison Fellowship in 1976, following a seven-month prison sentence for Watergate-related crimes. Since then, Prison Fellowship has flourished into a U.S. ministry of 50,000 volunteers and has spread to more then 50 countries. Beyond his prison ministry, Colson is a Christian author, speaker, and commentator, who regularly confronts contemporary values from a biblically informed perspective. His "BreakPoint" radio commentaries now air daily across the U.S. and he has written 14 books, including Loving God, Answers to Your Kids' Questions, The Line Between Right & Wrong: Developing a Personal Code of Ethics, Against the Night: Living in the New Dark Ages, and How Now Shall We Live: A Study Guide.

Copyright 2005 Breakpoint



Copyright 2004 Victor Claveau. All Rights Reserved