April 19, 2007 - Issue 226
Pat Robertson's Justice Department:
The Undue Influence of Regent University
By David A. Love
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 stop."
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 rights laws.
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 for them."
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.