Pickering’s Foul Farewell

Controversial Judge Revives False and Unfair Accusations, Signals More GOP Efforts to Misuse Religion for Political Gain

Controversial judge Charles Pickering stepped down from his appeals court seat this week with a bitter blast of inaccurate and offensive charges aimed at senators and public interest groups that had opposed his confirmation to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. Pickering had served on the court for less than a year, after President Bush gave him a recess appointment to circumvent concerted opposition by more than 40 senators.

“What a graceless goodbye,” said People For the American Way President Ralph G. Neas. “Charles Pickering repeated the shameful, baseless charge that he was opposed because he has ‘committed religious values.’ The truth is that many people of faith opposed his confirmation based on his record as a judge and public official. His partisan, ideological farewell underscores the concerns that were raised about his confirmation.”

Neas said Pickering’s offensive statement reminded him of the sorry spectacle of non-Catholic Republican members of the Judiciary Committee accusing Catholic Democratic members of anti-Catholic bias for opposing a judicial nominee who happened to be Catholic. He said the resurfacing of this charge in Pickering’s statement is a troubling sign that the White House and its allies may be gearing up to repeat the destructive religious McCarthyism that marred debates over judicial nominees the past few years.

“We call on President Bush and all Senators to develop a process for judicial nominations grounded in genuine bipartisan consultation and compromise, and to abandon the cynical misuse of religion,” said Neas. “Americans deserve better.”

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