Supreme Court Appointments: Judge Bork and the Politicization of Senate Confirmations

By Norman Vieira; Leonard Gross | Go to book overview

9
THE REVEREND AND THE RABBI: CHURCH-STATE ISSUES

Both the Democratic majority of the Judiciary Committee and their Republican counterparts took pains to find witnesses who would support their positions on whether Judge Bork's confirmation would pose a threat to the separation of church and state. A Democratic staff member called the Brookings Institution and spoke with James Dunn, who served as executive director for the Joint Baptist Committee of Public Affairs. Dunn volunteered that Judge Bork had had a heated exchange with Reverend Ken Dean during a seminar at Brookings in 1985. Reverend Dean, a pastor of the First Baptist Church of Rochester, had also authored a brief article that excoriated Bork for creating "a verbal brawl about the role of religion in American society" during an appearance at the Brookings seminar. Dean wrote that Judge Bork "is to the law and the Supreme Court what Lt. Col. Ollie North was to the White House and the National Security Council."1 Arrangements were made by majority staff members for the committee to hear Reverend Dean's testimony. Dean then prepared an eleven-page statement and loaded his Volkswagen van for a trip to Washington with his teenage daughter and her girlfriend.

At about this same time, the minority staff of the Judiciary Committee was arranging to call its own witnesses on church-state issues. The staff had received a letter from the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada; and a decision was made to schedule Rabbi William Handler, a member of that organization, to testify before the committee. The staff had not debriefed Rabbi Handler, but it was known that his testimony would be favorable to Judge Bork. What was not

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