On Miers, the White House takes the right to church

Stories about the nominee's faith -- and her antiabortion views -- are suddenly everywhere.

Published October 5, 2005 12:41PM (EDT)

Looking for insights into how Harriet Miers thinks? Perhaps one might consider what she did immediately after George W. Bush offered her the chance to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court: She called the minister at her antiabortion, anti-gay-marriage church in Dallas and asked him to pray for her.

New reports from Knight Ridder, the Washington Post and the New York Times should give Christian conservatives some level of comfort with -- and progressives a greater sense of concern about -- Bush's Supreme Court nominee.

Knight Ridder describes Miers as a devoted member of Valley View Christian Church, a "conservative, non-denominational Christian church" in Dallas that "preaches against abortion and gay marriages." Does Miers share those views? Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht, a man who claims to have had a "semi-romantic" relationship with Miers over the past 30 years, says that she must. "She hasn't said a lot, but you don't go to a church for 25 years if you're not comfortable with what they think," Hecht tells Knight Ridder. "I'm sure she's consistent with the church's position."

The Times' report, which focuses on Miers' decision to accept Jesus Christ as her savior in 1979, suggests that the timing of these new revelations about the nominee's religious views isn't exactly accidental. With conservatives, including Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, raising concerns about Miers' right-wing bona fides, the Times says that representatives of the White House trotted out Hecht to calm down leaders of the religious right. But in making the rounds yesterday, Hecht seems to have said different things to different people. To Knight Ridder, he said that Miers "hasn't said a lot" about abortion, suggesting that he had merely divined her views based on her church attendance. To the Post, he said that she once told him that she was "convinced that life begins at conception." To the Times, he said that he was certain that Miers is "pro-life," but added: "You can be just as pro-life as the day is long and can decide" that the Constitution requires that Roe v. Wade be upheld.

You can: As the Post notes, Anthony Kennedy was "described as a devout Catholic" when he arrived at the court but went on to vote to uphold Roe. But the president and his supporters are working overtime now to persuade the right that Miers won't do the same. At his press conference yesterday, Bush said at least five times that Miers won't "change" when she gets on the court. It was a reference to Kennedy and Sandra Day O'Connor, both of whom moved to the left on some issues as justices, and to David Souter, who may have been there all along. Bush and his surrogates have to make those kinds of assurances to keep the right on board with him, and with Miers, now. Even so, it was a strange thing to hear coming from a man who wouldn't be president if he hadn't undergone his own major life change two decades ago -- especially as he described a woman he never would have nominated to the Supreme Court unless she had undergone a similar change herself.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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