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defending the First Amendment against the Christian right ...

Jews On First!

... because if Jews don't speak out, they'll think we don't mind

Links added after May 22nd are here.

Monica Goodling, graduate of Pat Robertson's law school, had control of Justice Department attorney hiring

Pat Robertson's Regent University graduate applied ideological screen to civil service applicants

by JewsOnFirst.org, May 21, 2007

Links to reports cited in this summary and related reports, are below.

Monica Goodling, the graduate of Pat Robertson's Regent University law school who played a major role in the Justice Department's firing of U.S. attorneys, also reportedly used her own political and moral criteria in hiring civil service attorneys for the Justice Department, according to the New York Times.

Goodling was deputy director of the Executive Office of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and subsequently served as the department's liaison with the White House. She resigned last month and on Wednesday she is to testify under a grant of immunity in a Congressional investigation of the firing of eight U.S. attorneys for political reasons.

According to the New York Times, Goodling was one of the senior Justice officials who revamped the department's personnel practices. In March 2006, Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez signed a confidential memo giving her and D. Kyle Sampson authoritiy to hire and fire all the department's political appointees --except the U.S. attorneys. Sampson, a former Gonzalez chief of staff, was also forced out by the scandal.

According to the New York Times, Goodling weeded out candidates she believed were Democrats and asked other applicants to identify their favorite president and Supreme Court justice. In one case she asked an applicant about his marital fidelity. The DOJ says it is investigating whether Goodling engaged in prohibited personnel practices, according to the Times.

Ashcroft set the tone
However, Slate reporter Dahlia Lithwick, writing in the Washington Post, points out that former Attorney General John Ashcroft established the model for Goodling's apparently religiously motivated actions.

One of Ashcroft's most profound changes was to the Civil Rights Division, started in 1957 to fight racial discrimination in voting. Under Ashcroft, career lawyers were systematically fired or forced out and replaced by members of conservative or Christian groups or folks with no civil rights experience. In the five years after 2001, the Civil Rights Division brought no voting cases -- and only one employment case -- on behalf of an African American. Instead, the division took up the "civil rights" abuses of reverse discrimination -- claims of voter fraud or discrimination against Christians. On Feb. 20, Gonzales announced a new initiative called the First Freedom Project to carry out "even greater enforcement of religious rights for all Americans." In his view, the fight for a student's right to read a Bible in school is as urgent as the right to vote.

We may agree or disagree on that proposition, but it certainly explains how Goodling came to confuse working to advance Gonzales's agenda with working to advance God's.

In a report last February on the First Freedom Project, JewsOnFirst.org asked the DOJ about one of those cases involving Christians -- in which a Jewish social worker was fired from a federally funded program by the Salvation Army because she refused to sign a Christian statement of faith. DOJ went to court on behalf of the Salvation Army, which won. You can see our report and the emails we exchanged with the Justice Department here.

The focus on Goodling has served to encourage media attention on the spread throughout the federal government of graduates of Christian right institutions such as Pat Robertson's Regent University and Liberty University, founded by the late Jerry Falwell. It is unclear how deeply these graduates have penetrated the civil service at the Department of Justice and other agencies.




Attorney General's "First Freedom" program cloaks lawyering for the Christian right
Gonzales rolls out "religious freedom" initiative for Southern Baptist Convention, Christian Broadcasting Network

by Jane Hunter, JewsOnFirst.org, February 27, 2007

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales launched a religious liberties campaign called First Freedom last week. It looked to us like a vehicle for the Justice Department to provide legal support for the Christian right's attacks on church-state separation. Gonzales' exclusive presentation of the First Freedom program to the Southern Baptist Convention and Pat Robertson's 700 Club underscored that impression. A series of email exchanges with a department spokeswoman this afternoon were hardly reassuring.

First Freedom is a project of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ). Its freestanding website promises an agressive outreach to religious audiences:

Initiation of a series of regional seminars to be held around the country to educate religious, civil rights, and community leaders, attorneys, government officials, and other interested citizens about the laws protecting religious freedom enforced by the Department of Justice and how to file complaints.

A newly issued report on the website, Report on Enforcement of Laws Protecting Religious Freedom: Fiscal Years 2001-2006, lists a number of cases where the division protected citizens against religious discrimination. But sprinkled among the legitimate cases involving religious harassment are cases where the Justice Department has supported (often with amicus briefs) religious discrimination and incursions of fundamentalist Christianity into the public square. Continue.

Keeping the Faith

Bill Moyers Journal, PBS, May 11, 2007

Pat Robertson founded Regent University in 1978 in order "to produce Christian leaders who will make a difference, who will change the world." The University, which includes a law school accredited by the American Bar Association in 1996, openly mixes faith in the classroom, with the hope that graduates will go on to spread Christian values in their respective vocations.

Many graduates are choosing to pursue politics and taking jobs in Washington. Since 2001, 150 of the University's students have worked in the Bush Administration.

One such political aspirant, former Justice Department official, Monica Goodling, has recently helped to thrust her alma mater into the spotlight, due to her alleged involvement in the firings of as many as ten federal prosecutors. She resigned from her position in the Justice Department in April, and has said she would assert her fifth amendment rights, rather than testify before Congress. "May God bless you richly as you continue your service to America," Goodling wrote in her resignation letter to Attorney General Gonzales. Click here for links to a video and transcript of Moyers' report.

Colleagues Cite Partisan Focus by Justice Official

Eric Lipton, The New York Times, May 12, 2007

Washington, May 11 -- Two years ago, Robin C. Ashton, a seasoned criminal prosecutor at the Department of Justice, learned from her boss that a promised promotion was no longer hers.

"You have a Monica problem," Ms. Ashton was told, according to several Justice Department officials. Referring to Monica M. Goodling, a 31-year-old, relatively inexperienced lawyer who had only recently arrived in the office, the boss added, "She believes you’re a Democrat and doesn’t feel you can be trusted."

Ms. Ashton’s ouster -- she left the Executive Office for United States Attorneys for another Justice Department post two weeks later -- was a critical early step in a plan that would later culminate in the ouster of nine United States attorneys last year. Continue.

Why This Scandal Matters

Editorial, The New York Times, May 21, 2007

As Monica Goodling, a key player in the United States attorney scandal, prepares to testify before Congress on Wednesday, the administration’s strategy is clear. It has offered up implausible excuses, hidden the most damaging evidence and feigned memory lapses, while hoping that the public’s attention moves on. But this scandal is too important for the public or Congress to move on. This story should not end until Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is gone, and the serious damage that has been done to the Justice Department is repaired.

The Justice Department is no ordinary agency. Its 93 United States attorney offices, scattered across the country, prosecute federal crimes ranging from public corruption to terrorism. These prosecutors have enormous power: they can wiretap people’s homes, seize property and put people in jail for life. They can destroy businesses, and affect the outcomes of elections. It has always been understood that although they are appointed by a president, usually from his own party, once in office they must operate in a nonpartisan way, and be insulated from outside pressures.

This understanding has badly broken down. It is now clear that United States attorneys were pressured to act in the interests of the Republican Party, and lost their job if they failed to do so. The firing offenses of the nine prosecutors who were purged last year were that they would not indict Democrats, they investigated important Republicans, or they would not try to suppress the votes of Democratic-leaning groups with baseless election fraud cases. Continue.

Justice's Holy Hires

Dahlia Lithwick, The Washington Post, April 8, 2007

Monica Goodling had a problem. As senior counsel to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and Justice Department liaison to the White House, she no longer seemed to know what the truth was. She also must have been increasingly unclear about who her superiors were. This didn't used to be a problem for Goodling. Everything was once very certain: Her boss's truth was always the same as God's truth. Her boss was always either God or one of His staffers... And as she rose at Justice, a former classmate said, Goodling "developed a very positive reputation for people coming from Christian schools into Washington looking for employment in government, always ready to offer encouragement and be a sounding board." Continue.

All Eyes on Monica Goodling
With Gonzales testimony complete, Capitol Hill probe to shift gears

Jason McLure, Legal Times, May 14, 2007

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales emerged mostly unscathed from last week's face-off with Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee over his role in the U.S. Attorney firings. And with Republicans on the committee offering Gonzales near-universal support, the tone on Capitol Hill shifted from "Gonzales is going" to "Gonzales is staying."

But there's one big wild card that's yet to be thrown into play, and that's Monica Goodling, Gonzales' former White House liaison. Last week, Chief Judge Thomas Hogan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia approved a House request to grant limited immunity to Goodling in exchange for her testimony.

Goodling, who resigned her post April 7, previously told the committee that she would assert her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. She now has the opportunity to shed light on her key role in a firing process that has remained shrouded in mystery, despite the release of thousands of Justice Department e-mails and the testimony of a number of top officials. According to congressional staffers, Democrats hope to have her testify publicly before Memorial Day. Continue

Falwell saw law school as tool to alter society

Lisa Anderson, The Chicago Tribune, May 21, 2007

Lynchburg, Va. -- Some may have found it curious when Rev. Jerry Falwell's new Liberty University School of Law recently unveiled a $1 million teaching courtroom featuring exact-to-the-inch replicas of the U.S. Supreme Court bench and the lectern and counsel tables facing it. But Liberty faculty and students understood perfectly: Falwell intended his students to be well prepared to argue before and, ultimately, to serve on the highest court in the land.

Falwell, the prominent televangelist and father of the Moral Majority who founded Liberty University in 1971, died less than a week before the school granted its first law degrees to 50 graduates on Saturday. But his dream of "training a new generation of lawyers, judges, educators, policymakers and world leaders in law from the perspective of an explicitly Christian worldview" remains very much alive.

And that's true not just at Liberty, with its evangelical Baptist heritage, but at a growing number of conservative Christian law schools, such as the Ave Maria School of Law in Ann Arbor, Mich., which graduated its first class in 2003; the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, which graduated its first class in 2004; and Barry University School of Law in Orlando, founded in 1999 -- all Catholic schools. Televangelist Pat Robertson's 21-year-old evangelical Regent University School of Law in Virginia Beach, Va., was one of the first of this new wave of schools, while Liberty is the youngest. All of them are either fully or provisionally accredited by the American Bar Association. Continue.

Goodling Admits to 'Crossing the Line'; Denies Major Role in Attorney Firings

Jason McLure and Emma Schwartz, The Law.com, May 24, 2007

A former top aide to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales admitted to "crossing the line" in vetting the political loyalties of candidates for positions as career federal prosecutors in testimony Wednesday before the House Judiciary Committee.

Monica Goodling, who served as senior counsel and White House liaison to Gonzales until last month, also testified that Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, the department's No. 2 official, had provided Congress with inaccurate and misleading information on a number of points during his own testimony before the Senate in February. McNulty resigned his position last week, citing personal financial concerns.

"I believe the deputy was not fully candid," Goodling said. Continue

For God's Sake

Paul Krugman, The New York Times, April 13, 2007

In 1981, Gary North, a leader of the Christian Reconstructionist movement -- the openly theocratic wing of the Christian right -- suggested that the movement could achieve power by stealth. "Christians must begin to organize politically within the present party structure," he wrote, "and they must begin to infiltrate the existing institutional order."

Today, Regent University, founded by the televangelist Pat Robertson to provide "Christian leadership to change the world," boasts that it has 150 graduates working in the Bush administration.

Unfortunately for the image of the school, where Mr. Robertson is chancellor and president, the most famous of those graduates is Monica Goodling, a product of the university’s law school. She’s the former top aide to Alberto Gonzales who appears central to the scandal of the fired U.S. attorneys and has declared that she will take the Fifth rather than testify to Congress on the matter. Continue.

Media Finally Discovers Army of Pat Robertson Acolytes in Bush

Max Blumenthal, HuffingtonPost.com., April 13, 2007

When Monica Goodling's name erupted into the news last week in the attorney scandal, the mainstream press suddenly realized that Pat Robertson's Regent University exists -- and that it's got a big footprint in the Bush admin.

Monica Goodling on her Regent University homepage: "If I only had two seconds to tell you why I'm here, I'd have to say this: I want to leave the world a better place than I found it. Tough assignment, but, worth a try."

When Monica Goodling's name erupted into the news last week, the mainstream press discovered suddenly that Pat Robertson's Regent University exists. Not only that, the press learned that it has made a deep footprint in George W. Bush's Washington.

Since Robertson's failed presidential campaign, coverage of him has largely focused on his mercurial and bizarre personality. He seemed only to appear in the news when one of his many entertainingly outrageous gaffes or false prophecies earned publicity. While Robertson's hysterical episodes deserved all the coverage they generated, with a few notable exceptions, the mainstream press habitually ignored his political machinations. Robertson and his cadres exploited this lack of scrutiny to quietly erect a sophisticated and far-reaching political network that today propells the Christian right's ongoing march through the institutions. Continue

Secret Order By Gonzales Delegated Extraordinary Powers To Aides

Murray Waas, National Journal, April 30, 2007

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales signed a highly confidential order in March 2006 delegating to two of his top aides -- who have since resigned because of their central roles in the firings of eight U.S. attorneys -- extraordinary authority over the hiring and firing of most non-civil-service employees of the Justice Department. A copy of the order and other Justice Department records related to the conception and implementation of the order were provided to National Journal.

In the order, Gonzales delegated to his then-chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson, and his White House liaison "the authority, with the approval of the Attorney General, to take final action in matters pertaining to the appointment, employment, pay, separation, and general administration" of virtually all non-civil-service employees of the Justice Department, including all of the department's political appointees who do not require Senate confirmation. Monica Goodling became White House liaison in April 2006, the month after Gonzales signed the order.

The existence of the order suggests that a broad effort was under way by the White House to place politically and ideologically loyal appointees throughout the Justice Department, not just at the U.S.-attorney level. Department records show that the personnel authority was delegated to the two aides at about the same time they were working with the White House in planning the firings of a dozen U.S. attorneys, eight of whom were, in fact, later dismissed. Continue

Making Law Enforcement a Political Enterprise: Key Examples from the U.S. Attorney Scandal and the So-Called "First Freedom Project"

Marci Hamilton, Findlaw.com, May 17, 2007

Now, a fourth head has rolled, in the Bush Administration's Department of Justice, over the issue of the firings of United States Attorneys. Democrats and some Republicans have called for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to resign because the firings appear to have been solely politically motivated. But so far, only those working for Gonzales have had to leave office. They include Monica Goodling, who was the White House liaison; Gonzales's Chief of Staff, Kyle Sampson; William Battle, who informed the U.S. Attorneys they were being replaced; and now Paul McNulty, the Deputy Attorney General.

It says something unfortunate about the Attorney General's character that he himself has not chosen to resign, because, given what is now known, there is little doubt that at least some of the firings were improper. Moreover, as I will explain, this is hardly the only instance in which this Justice Department has improperly politicized the enforcement of the law. Continue

What Will the Justice Department's Church/State Stance Be Under Alberto Gonzales?
The Future of Religious Land Use Institutionalized Persons Act Enforcement

Marci Hamilton, Findlaw.com, January 13, 2005

The hearings on the nomination of Alberto Gonzales -- President Bush's new Attorney General pick -- went well for Gonzales. He came across as an intelligent, sober, and good man.

One can only assume that the Department of Justice (DOJ) under him will be rather different than it has been under Attorney General John Ashcroft. And that is all to the good. But precisely how will it be different? One answer is that Gonzales is less likely to repeat Ashcroft's mistake of making it the primary mission of DOJ to aid religion, and religious institutions. Continue

Updates: Links added after May 21st

The New Establishment
How Evangelicals Became Part of Washington's Fabric

Hanna Rosin, The Washington Post, May 25, 2007

To the Bush haters of America, the young Monica Goodling is a footnote of this wretched era, one of the many Washington types that they'll be happy to get rid of come January 2009: Venal Vice President, Ex-Lobbyists Turned Regulators and, in Goodling's case, Young Evangelicals in High Places.

Until she appeared before the House Judiciary Committee this week to testify about her role in the Justice Department firing scandal, Goodling had been mocked on the Internet and on late-night TV as a certain type: one of a "bunch of hayseeds" staffing the administration, as HBO comedian Bill Maher called her.

Goodling graduated from Messiah College ("home of the Fighting Christies") and the law school at Regent University, founded by Pat Robertson ("a televangelist's diploma mill") -- both Maher's terms. Continue.