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Replacing Kennedy: The Finalists

Michael Smerconish goes over the president's top nominees to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy. What's really at stake?

Posted: Jul 8, 2018 6:11 PM
Updated: Jul 8, 2018 6:11 PM

While we don't yet know the identity of Donald Trump's nominee to the US Supreme Court, media reports are clear that the front runners are alarmingly more conservative than outgoing Justice Anthony Kennedy. That is, alarming to those who don't want to see Roe v. Wade overturned, depriving women of the right to control their own bodies, and the reversal of Obergefell v. Hodges, which recognized same-sex marriage. And it's no exaggeration to say both of those rights are in peril depending on the views of the justice who replaces Kennedy.

For those like me who are gravely concerned about this possible development, the best chance we will have to get a sense of the nominee's views on these issues will be during the Senate confirmation hearings. However, as history has taught us, the nominees are well-coached to be evasive. We saw an example of this just last year with then-Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch. When pressed by Senate Democrats regarding his views on whether he would vote to overturn Roe, he offered only vague answers -- such as Roe is the "precedent of the United States Supreme Court," and the "law of the land."

Expect the same from Trump's nominee this time.

If senators truly want to know who poses a threat to abortion rights and marriage equality, I have some suggested questions. First, ask the nominee if he or she supports or denounces the idea of making the Bible, rather than the Constitution, the supreme law of the land.

Alarmingly, we have leaders like Mike Pence, Mike Huckabee and others openly advocating for basing US laws on the Bible. You can hear it in their arguments to overturn abortion and marriage equality, which are predicated not upon public policy concerns but upon the Bible. If you doubt me, just look at the words of Vice President Mike Pence, a man who told us that he's "a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order." (American didn't even make Pence's top three!)

Pence, as a member of Congress, made an impassioned speech on the House floor against marriage equality. Was his opposition to this based on the US Constitution? No, it was based on the Bible. Pence, invoking Genesis 2:24, stated, "I believe first, though, marriage should be protected because it wasn't our idea. Several millennia ago the words were written that a man should leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife and the two shall become one flesh. It was not our idea; it was God's idea."

Same goes for abortion. If the nominee follows the Biblical interpretation that life begins at conception, as articulated by people like James Dobson and is willing to impose that as the law of America, abortion rights may be left up to each state to decide. (As it stands in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the most recent ruling on abortion, a woman has full reproductive freedom until the fetus is viable to live outside of the womb.)

And here are a few other questions that senators can ask of the nominee, such as: Do you agree with Thomas Jefferson's view that the Constitution requires "building a wall of separation between Church & State." Or even Ronald Reagan's view that "church and state are, and must remain, separate"?

Conversely, the nominee should be asked if he or she accepts or denounces the views of Christian leaders like the GOP's Mike Huckabee, who has made it crystal clear that he wants our Constitution revised to align with the values of the Bible: "What we need to do is amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards rather than trying to change God's standards so it lines up with some contemporary view."

Those who give their first allegiance to the Bible rather than to the Constitution could be said to support "Christian sharia law."

Remember when the right wing ginned up fears of Muslims Americans by claiming that they wanted to impose Islamic law in the United States, which they describe as sharia law? But there were no Muslim leaders in the US who were advocating that US should be based on the Quran. (If there were, I'd vocally oppose them.)

While there is no official book titled "sharia law," some Muslim majority nations base their state laws on Islamic principles set forth in the Quran. However, this is not an issue in the US. In fact, in a Florida state legislature debate on whether to pass a measure intended to ban Islamic law from that state, the chief GOP state senator championing the bill publicly admitted there were no Muslims pushing to impose Islamic sharia law there, but the legislation was "a preemptive gesture" akin to a "vaccination."

Let me be clear, my opposition to turning the Bible into American law is not because I'm anti-Christian or anti-religion. I'm absolutely unequivocally neither. As a Muslim, my religion and my relationship with God are very important. And I view the Pence's and Huckabee's as representing a small, fringe percentage of the overall Christian American community.

But I strongly believe, as Jefferson did, that we need a wall between church and state. In fact, we need an amendment to the US Constitution barring laws based on any religious text -- be it the Bible, the Quran or any other religious book.

That's why our senators need to press Trump's nominee to see if he or she will reject any attempts to base our laws on the Bible. The United States of America must remain a nation where we have freedom of religion, not a nation where any one religion can be imposed upon us.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 111322

Reported Deaths: 3202
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7796173
DeSoto670178
Harrison484483
Jackson435081
Rankin383786
Madison373993
Lee344979
Forrest296377
Jones283782
Washington252197
Lafayette242642
Lauderdale2376131
Lamar217138
Bolivar198377
Oktibbeha195854
Neshoba1814111
Lowndes174962
Panola166337
Leflore160787
Sunflower157649
Warren152755
Monroe145972
Pontotoc143819
Pike137256
Lincoln135555
Copiah135036
Marshall134826
Scott123829
Coahoma123436
Grenada120038
Yazoo119333
Simpson118649
Union115225
Holmes113560
Leake113340
Tate113239
Itawamba110424
Pearl River108958
Adams104343
Prentiss102619
Wayne98721
Alcorn96012
George93917
Marion92942
Covington92525
Tippah85921
Newton84427
Chickasaw82625
Winston82221
Tallahatchie81825
Tishomingo79341
Hancock78127
Attala77626
Clarke72349
Clay67621
Jasper67417
Walthall63327
Calhoun61412
Noxubee59617
Smith58316
Claiborne53216
Montgomery52923
Tunica52217
Lawrence49914
Yalobusha49314
Perry48122
Carroll46312
Greene45518
Stone45014
Amite41713
Quitman4146
Humphreys41216
Jefferson Davis39811
Webster36613
Wilkinson33020
Kemper32015
Benton3154
Sharkey27814
Jefferson27010
Franklin2373
Choctaw2036
Issaquena1063
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 153016

Reported Deaths: 2633
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson22563372
Mobile14335314
Tuscaloosa10023133
Montgomery9759196
Madison904893
Shelby709960
Lee644966
Baldwin640569
Marshall428248
Calhoun412759
Etowah405749
Morgan396833
Houston364632
DeKalb319628
Elmore310752
St. Clair282142
Limestone270828
Walker268892
Talladega258435
Cullman227623
Lauderdale208740
Autauga201029
Jackson200915
Franklin199731
Colbert192228
Russell19053
Dallas185627
Blount184824
Chilton181731
Escambia171328
Coffee16669
Covington166029
Dale163451
Pike130512
Chambers130143
Tallapoosa128686
Clarke127117
Marion104729
Butler99840
Barbour9889
Marengo97221
Winston90413
Geneva8417
Pickens80517
Lawrence80031
Randolph79814
Bibb79114
Hale74529
Cherokee72214
Clay71912
Lowndes70127
Henry6376
Bullock63517
Monroe6319
Washington62212
Crenshaw59330
Perry5806
Wilcox55912
Conecuh55713
Fayette55312
Cleburne5287
Macon52820
Sumter46721
Lamar4565
Choctaw38712
Greene33916
Coosa1973
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