Blackmail or threat?

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No sooner does retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor launch her much-needed campaign against threats to judicial independence and immunity than I receive an E-blast from Concerned Women for America. The E-mail led me to a website with the headline "End Judicial Blackmail". "Judicial blackmail?" What's that?

Concerned Women for America is the organization founded by Beverly LaHaye, who is married to bestselling Left Behind series coauthor Timothy LaHaye. As opposed to former Justice O'Connor's Wall Street Journal op-ed of this week that focuses on O'Connor's "concern … about the number of verbal attacks on judges–and a few physical attacks as well from time to time," CWA is lashing out against what it sees as judicial tyranny. O'Connor's focus and that of LaHaye are diametrically opposed.

CWA is pressing Congress to pass the Public Expressions of Religion Protection Act, a measure, its website says, that "would amend the United States Revised Statutes to eliminate the threat of judicial blackmail against constitutionally protected expressions of faith by government officials and entities. In other words, it would prevent groups like the American Civil Liberties Union from threatening cities and municipalities with costly lawsuits over religious symbols on veterans' memorials, crosses on city seals, support of the Boy Scouts, and use of phrases like 'In God We Trust' and 'one nation under God.' "

Accusing the judiciary of "blackmail" because judges uphold at least a modicum of separation between church and state is just the kind of "verbal attack" Justice O'Connor says needs to end. Judges have a right to, and indeed are elected or appointed to, interpret the U.S. Constitution. O'Connor reiterated the point when she said that "ubiquitous 'activist judges' who 'legislate from the bench' have become central villains on today's domestic political landscape." What Justice O'Connor was too polite to add is that the phrase "judicial activism" emanates from her own side of the aisle, albeit from the extremities of her party.

Both women are Republicans. Justice O'Connor was a Republican state senator from Arizona when then President Ronald Reagan appointed her to the U.S. Supreme Court. The following Web page lists almost $10,000 in campaign contributions Beverly LaHaye gave to Republicans (and none to Democrats).

Not that I expect this to happen anytime soon, but wouldn't it be nice if LaHaye paid more attention to the desires of her fellow Republican, O'Connor?