1 Judicial Nomination in, Obama Faces Possible Opposition on Abortion, Prayer

David Hamilton is Obama's first nominee to the federal bench.

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By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country

It's incredible how major the religion angle is in President Obama's first appointment of a federal judge this week, even though the nominee is a moderate who's supported by Republican home-state Sen. Richard Lugar. The Associated Press reports on appeals court nominee David Hamilton:

Conservative Republican Sens. John Cornyn of Texas and Orrin Hatch of Utah said they haven't formed an opinion yet on Hamilton, while another GOP conservative, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, said he was troubled by Hamilton's ruling against a sectarian prayer to open the Indiana House of Representatives.

That ruling was in 2005, when Hamilton banned the practice of opening the chamber's business with prayers mentioning Jesus Christ or using terms such as savior. He said that amounted to state endorsement of a religion. If confirmed by the Senate, Hamilton will serve on the circuit appeals court that overturned the ruling.

In 2003, he struck down part of an Indiana law on abortion. The law had required abortion clinics to give women information about alternatives to abortion in the presence of a physician or nurse, 18 hours before the procedure. The 7th Circuit Court also reversed that decision.

It may be tricky for religious conservatives to paint Hamilton, the son of a United Methodist minister, as an enemy combatant (I wonder if that was a small part of the calculus in choosing him). But if a moderate son of a preacher on the Seventh Circuit threatens to kick up resistance from conservative culture warriors, imagine the battle we're in for with the first Supreme Court vacancy under Obama.

  • Read more by Dan Gilgoff.