Perhaps the most insidious part of
the political firings of eight U.S. Attorneys by the U.S. Justice
Department is the larger story behind the story: 150 officials
in the Bush Administration are graduates of Regent University,
an obscure institution in Virginia founded and headed by the
fundamentalist televangelist Pat Robertson.
Regent University— formerly known as CBN University, for
the Christian Broadcasting Network - is self-described on its
website as "the nation's academic center for Christian thought
and action." The Regent University School of Law purports
to provide "a legal education integrated with Christian
principles," and "seeks to admit students who are serious
about the critical roles they will assume as future counselors,
conciliators, defenders of the faith, effective client advocates
and followers of Christ." Former Attorney General John Ashcroft,
known for his role in shredding the U.S. Constitution, is a "distinguished
professor of law and government" at Regent.
Regent Law is a tier four law school, ranked at the bottom of
the U.S. News and World Report's national law school rankings.
And the school only received its accreditation in 1996. Yet when
Bush was appointed president by the Supreme Court in 2001, Regent
Law was apparently placed on the fast track, and its graduates
propelled into positions of leadership and influence in the government,
particularly the Justice Department.
The founder and chancellor of Regent University
is Pat Robertson, who has taken many offensive and extremist
positions over the
years. Of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, Robertson
said "I don't know about this doctrine of assassination,
but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that
we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper
than starting a war, and I don't think any oil shipments will
According to Robertson, feminism is "a
socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women
to leave their husbands,
kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism,
and become lesbians."
He called the Iraq War "a righteous cause out of the Bible." Robertson
regards Hinduism as "demonic," and said that Hindus
should be barred from entering the country. He referred to Islam
a "Christian heresy" and the Prophet Muhammad "an
absolute wild-eyed fanatic. . . a robber and a brigand."
He suggested that the votes of white South Africans should count
more that other votes because they are in the minority.
Robertson referred to liberal professors
as "racists, murders,
sexual deviants and supporters of Al-Qaeda," "some
of them killers," and "termites that have worked into
the woodwork of our academic society."
Robertson told citizens of Dover, Pennsylvania that they rejected
God when they voted out of office a seven-member school board
that rejected evolution and promoted intelligent design.
And regarding discrimination against Christians,
he said that "Just
like what Nazi Germany did to the Jews, so liberal America is
now doing to the evangelical Christians. It's no different. It
is the same thing. It is happening all over again. It is the
Democratic Congress, the liberal-based media and the homosexuals
who want to destroy the Christians. Wholesale abuse and discrimination
and the worst bigotry directed toward any group in America today.
More terrible than anything suffered by any minority in history."
The United States has a wall of separation
between church and state. Under the Establishment Clause of
the First Amendment, "Congress
shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." This
has been interpreted by the courts to mean that declaring and
financially supporting a national religion is unconstitutional,
as is the favoring of one religious philosophy over another,
or the favoring of religion over non-religion.
It is disturbing enough that, given the Establishment Clause,
a fundamentalist Christian university such as Regent has so much
influence over the inner workings of government, particularly
the Justice Department and its civil rights division. The Religious
Right does not believe in the wall that divides the secular and
the religious, and has worked diligently to tear down that barrier.
The larger issue is that the world view of religious fundamentalism
is incompatible with a democratic society, not to mention the
work of the Justice Department and the enforcement of the civil
Conservative Southern Christianity never has been a friend to
civil rights. Its standard bearers and water carriers have always
stood in the way of justice. They justified and maintained slavery,
supported segregation, and opposed the Civil Rights and Voting
Rights Acts. Now, they oppose affirmative action and suppress
the rights of the poor and disenfranchised while upholding the
rights of the unborn and unconscious. And in state legislatures
throughout the South, they fight to enact Confederate Heritage
Month into law.
And their soldiers in the Justice Department are ignoring racial
discrimination against people of color, focusing instead on ruses
and distractions such as reverse discrimination, anti-Christian
religious discrimination, and voter fraud (which is code language
for the Right's efforts to suppress the African American and
immigrant vote). Like everyone, the Christian Right is entitled
to their opinions and belief system. However, they are not entitled
to run a government in the name of the people, or change the
Constitution to suit their religious and political zealotry.
At the center of the scandal over attorney general Alberto Gonzales
and the firing of the federal prosecutors is Monica Goodling,
33, former top aide to Gonzales. A 1999 graduate of Regent Law
with no prosecutorial experience, yet who apparently played a
role in the firing and replacement of the prosecutors, Goodling
invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
In many ways, Goodling is the story of the Bush II administration.
It is a story of costly blunders and missteps, unconscionable
and regressive policies, and incompetent and corrupt people entrusted
with running the government.
The Iraq War was the brainchild of the neoconservatives, armchair
militarists who arrogantly use the world as their own chess set.
Nations of color are their testing ground for appalling foreign
policy, kidnapping and torture, kangaroo courts, and wars of
aggression against imaginary or manufactured foes. The incompetence
of the neocons has ruined this nation's reputation, cost thousands
upon thousands of lives, helped spread international terrorism
and increased instability in the world, all to the benefit of
the corporate war profiteers, whose coffers are overflowing.
Amidst the devastation of Hurricane Katrina,
we learned that a former horse show judge, Michael Brown, was
in charge of the
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). As a result of official
incompetence, countless New Orleans residents lost their lives
and homes, or were otherwise forced to flee. Of those who were
forced to seek refuge in the Houston Astrodome, Barbara Bush,
the president's mother, said that "so many of the people
in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so
this—this (she chuckles slightly) is working very well
Conservatives object to affirmative action on the grounds that,
in their view, the best are not being hired and the most qualified
should be selected on the basis of merit. With their unqualified
and underqualified stooges promoted to the highest levels of
government, the Bush crowd provides ample proof that for these
folks, it was never really about merit. They just want their
own people - those who have passed the litmus test for political
and religious extremism - in charge.
Now that the scandal of Regent University has surfaced, perhaps
we will do more to safeguard the integrity of our public institutions,
and ensure that government serves the interests of all Americans,
rather than a narrow interest group.
David A. Love is an attorney based in Philadelphia, and
a contributor to the Progressive
Media Project and McClatchy-Tribune
News Service. He contributed to the book, States of
Confinement: Policing, Detention and Prisons (St. Martin's
Press, 2000). Love is a former spokesperson for the Amnesty
International UK National Speakers Tour, and organized the
first national police brutality conference as a staff member
with the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights. He
served as a law clerk to two black federal judges. Click
here to contact Mr. Love.