President Bush's nomination of Priscilla Owen to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, Louisiana received a blow late yesterday when a prominent conservative Christian organization announced that it is pulling its support for the nominee on the grounds that she is a divorcée. The Coalition for Traditional Values wants President Bush to withdraw Ms. Owen's name in favor of a married nominee.
Questions raised about whether a "divorcee lifestyle" and a conservative judgeship go hand in hand
By Deanna Swift
• Adultery Provision Could Stall Homosexual Marriage Amendment
WASHINGTON, DC—President Bush's nomination of Priscilla Owen to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, Louisiana, received a blow late yesterday when a prominent conservative Christian organization announced that it is pulling its support for the nominee on the grounds that she is a divorcée. The Coalition for Traditional Values says that it plans to press President Bush to withdraw Ms. Owen's name in favor of a married nominee. The group's chairman, Pastor Roy DeLong, says that he will also urge GOP senators to reject Ms. Owens should the White House fail to withdraw her name.
Ability to defend marriage in question
At issue is the fact that the 51-year-old Texas Supreme Court Justice is divorced. And while that might not have been an issue in the past, says Rev. DeLong, it certainly is now, when defending traditional marriage is a priority.
"I don't want to be disrespectful to the nominee, but she was apparently unable to defend her own marriage," says Rev. DeLong. He questions whether Ms. Owen's status as a divorcee might force her to recuse herself from important cases regarding the defense of marriage, including state and federal efforts to ban adultery and make divorces more difficult to obtain. "Does her lifestyle as a divorcee really befit the weighty responsibilities of such a high office?"
A prayer answered—and a fight joined
Asked why he waited until the battle over Ms. Owen's nomination had reached the floor of the United States Senate before registering his objections, Rev. DeLong said that it hadn't been his choice. "I prayed over the issue long and hard and I finally got an answer telling me that this is not the right nominee for the job. He does not want to see a divorcee in this position."
And while the hour may be late, the last-minute lobbying campaign by the Coalition for Traditional Values to sway top GOP officials and other conservative Christian groups already seems to be paying off. Last night, Sandy Slokum, the executive director of the Arlington, VA, advocacy group, Defend Our Marriages, and a leading voice in the campaign to make adultery a federal crime, indicated that she too was withdrawing her support for the President's nominee.
Wanted: 'covenant' candidates
"I thought it over long and hard and I have to agree with Roy that this sets a terrible precedent," says Mrs. Slokum. "We can't give people responsibility for setting a more conservative course for America if they're unable to set a conservative example even in their own lives. This is like putting a draft dodger in charge of military policy. You just wouldn't do it."
Rallying for the cause
Rev. DeLong and Mrs. Slokum say that they're urging their supporters to gather in front of the U.S. Capitol on Thursday afternoon for a rally opposing Ms. Owen's nomination. They'll also present President Bush and top-ranking GOP Senators, including Rick Santorum, with a letter encouraging the selection of a nominee who has entered into a so-called "covenant marriage," a tough marital pact that allows divorce only in cases of adultery, abandonment, or imprisonment.
So far, the only prominent GOP official to enter into a covenant marriage is Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. The White House has not yet indicated whether it would consider nominating Governor Huckabee in place of Ms. Owen.
A critical voice
This is not the first time that the Coalition for Traditional Values has broken with other conservative Christian organizations on controversial topics. Last month, Rev. DeLong issued a public denunciation of First Lady's comedy act, arguing that her off-color jokes about "desperate housewives" and the milking of male horses were offensive to Christians.
Do you think President Bush should withdraw Ms. Owen's nomination in favor of a married nominee? Talk back to Deanna Swift at [email protected]