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Walter Olson | Behind the smears of Robert Bork





Here’s something you may not know about the 1987 battle that kept Robert Bork off the Supreme Court: Opponents pursued a whispering campaign against him on the grounds that he wasn’t enough of a religious believer.

Back then, many Democrats still held seats in the rural South, and the religion angle gave them an easier way to explain their stance to constituents than, We’ve been asked to oppose him as a party-line matter.

Thus Rep. John Bryant (D-Texas) warned that Bork was “an agnostic who is not a member of any church.”

And Sen. Bennett Johnston (D-La.), while disclaiming any“religious test for judges,” advised “fundamental religious people” back home to “look, in addition to what he has written, at [Bork’s] statements on morals or lack thereof — and I don’t mean to suggest he is immoral— but his lack of occupation with morals and with religion.”

“Never in memory had a judicial nomination been fought in such language. Why?”

Sen. Howell Heflin (D-Ala.) told constituents he was“disturbed by [Bork’s] refusal to discuss his belief in God — or the lack thereof.” Heflin also alluded darkly to the nominee’s beard and “strange lifestyle” as a Yale law professor.

More.



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  • CBDenver

    Bottom line as to why Bork was so savagely opposed

    "As a constitutional law scholar, Bork had distinguished himself even among conservatives for his scathing critique of the Warren Court, which he accused essentially of having made up constitutional law as it went along."

    "To organized liberal groups, on whose behalf Kennedy was acting, this was the next thing to a declaration of war. Yet they couldn’t exactly come out and defend making up constitutional law as you went along as their own vision for the high court."

    "Instead, they served up a steady diet of vitriol and wild oversimplification, especially in TV ads and other messages delivered outside the confirmation hearings."

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