Fundies Rise Quickly Bush’s Justice Department

Via Radley Balko is this story of about how people were appointed to fairly high positions in the Justice Department based on little more than their religious views.

A 1995 graduate of Messiah College, an evangelical Christian school, and a 1999 graduate of Pat Robertson’s Regent University Law School, Goodling is an improbable character for a political scandal. Her chief claim to professional fame appears to have been loyalty to the president and to the process of reshaping the Justice Department in his image (and, thus, His image). A former career official there told The Washington Post that Goodling “forced many very talented career people out of main Justice so she could replace them with junior people that were either loyal to the administration or would score her some points.” 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.”

[…]

Goodling is one of 150 graduates of Regent University who have served in this administration, as Regent’s Web site proudly proclaims. Pretty impressive for a 29-year-old school. The university says that “approximately one out of every six Regent alumni is employed in some form of government work.” And that’s precisely what its founder desired. The school’s motto is “Christian Leadership to Change the World.”

[…]

Jeffrey A. Brauch, the law school’s dean, urges that students reflect upon “the critical role the Christian faith should play in our legal system.” Jason Eige (Class of ’99), senior assistant to Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell, puts it pithily in the alumni newsletter: “Your Résumé Is God’s Instrument.”

This legal worldview meshed perfectly with that of Ashcroft — a devout Pentecostal who forbade use of the word “pride,” as well as the phrase “no higher calling than public service,” on documents bearing his signature. No surprise that, as he began transforming the Justice Department, the Goodlings looked good to him.

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.

This article also suggests that Kyle D. Sampson, Alberto Gonzalez’s Chief of Staff, was also picked due to his religious views as well.

Religiosity. A Utah-born Mormon, Sampson first came over to the Justice Department as a top aide to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft. “Some people think you should never talk about religion and politics, and, like me, General Ashcroft thinks those are the two most interesting things to talk about,” he told the Salt Lake Tribune in 2005. “So, that’s what we talk about–doctrinal things. What’s your belief in God?” Upon Sampson’s appointment to the Bush administration, the Mormon Church’s website reported: “Sampson said President Bush is a committed follower of Christ, which makes him a great boss.”

Ideology. Among the reasons Sampson was apparently angry with some of the ousted U.S. attorneys was a special obsession of the Christian right: prosecuting pornographers. Brent Ward, head of the Justice Department’s obscenity task force and a veteran of the smut wars of the Ed Meese era, e-mailed Sampson in a rage about the failure by two of U.S. attorneys, Las Vegas’s Dan Bogden and Phoenix’s Paul Charlton, to prosecute obscenity cases he had brought them. When the Reagan administration wrangled with pornographers in the 1980s, it failed to win many cases but drove several firms out of business by dragging out the legal proceedings. “What do you suggest I do?” Ward asked Sampson. “If you want to act on what I give you, I will be glad to provide a little more context for each of the two situations.” Both men wound up getting fired.

It looks very much like the hiring/staffing decisions at the Dept. of Justice are based more on one’s religious background and not on one’s qualifications to actually do the job. Kind of explains all the bungling and stupidity.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, Religion, US Politics, , , ,
Steve Verdon
About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research. He joined the staff at OTB in November 2004.

Comments

  1. Stormy70 says:

    Yes, better to surround “religious” people with tanks and burn them out, a la Reno. She really knew how to run a Justice Department. This post smacks of religious bigotry. Maybe you need a two week suspension, too.

  2. Gollum says:

    Bigotry, Stormy? I don’t get that at all. There’s a bit of a presumption that more qualified/less religious individuals were overlooked in favor of lesser-qualified/more religious individuals, but the anecdotes fairly support that. Instead of accusing Steve Verdon of bigotry, try responding with some material that refutes the inference.

  3. Anderson says:

    Yes, better to surround “religious” people with tanks and burn them out, a la Reno.

    Right, because that was the problem with David Koresh and his fans — they were just too religious, so they had to be stopped.

  4. Stormy70 says:

    Most Mormons are not considered “Fundies”, which is used as a derogatory put down of Christians. It’s in the headline of the post, which is why I called it out. It tainted the argument by using such a leftist term for people who are religious. It smacks of anti-religious bigotry.

  5. I have to agree with Stormy70. Given the hostility most fundamentalist Christians feel towards Mormons, the Sampson example actually disproves what it is purported to prove.

  6. legion says:

    Stormy,
    If Steve just flatly asserted that devout Christians, or deeply religious people in general, were not terribly competent, that’d be bigotry. But in this case the administration’s own defenders (and members) are explicitly putting religious & political doctrine above basic competence – they actively sought out people whose loyalty outpaced their competence because a) they’re more likely to follow questionable or even flatly illegal orders from above and b) they’re that much less likely to have decent career alternatives.

  7. Tlaloc says:

    Yes, better to surround “religious” people with tanks and burn them out, a la Reno. She really knew how to run a Justice Department. This post smacks of religious bigotry. Maybe you need a two week suspension, too.

    *Yawn*

    Oh, look, the religious right gets caught being total asses and their response is to scream “bigotry.” I’m shocked I tell you, shocked.

  8. G.A.Phillips says:

    Stormy70, Steve’s monkey worshippers can do it better statement and the end was what kind of smacked of bigotry but he as an American has the God given right of free speech to make a fool of himself as do we all, and Anderson was right even that I believe he could have said it much better but I think he seemed angry and taking a shot at maybe me, he was right Mr. Koresh had to be stopped but it was tragic mistake in the way it came to pass.

  9. Anderson says:

    I have to agree with Stormy70. Given the hostility most fundamentalist Christians feel towards Mormons, the Sampson example actually disproves what it is purported to prove.

    Not at all. No one thinks that Bush’s people are favoring evangelicals et al. because of a sincere agreement with their theology.

    It’s because they are perceived as politically reliable. As are Mormons.

  10. Anderson says:

    Anderson was right even that I believe he could have said it much better but I think he seemed angry and taking a shot at maybe me

    Not today, G.A., to the extent that I follow you.

    — BATF *was* negligent, maybe culpably, in precipitating the Waco situation, but once it ratcheted up, Koresh et al. had a simple way to save their lives: come out w/ hands up. They preferred otherwise, presumably b/c Koresh preferred martyrdom to a lengthy stay in the federal pen.

  11. G.A.Phillips says:

    Taloc, dude why, another donkeylover with another personal attack for no other reason than that is all you purplepolesmokers are capable of, dude get a God, get a life, and maybe read a book writing buy someone other then a communist once in while, a jackass calling someone else an ass just don’t make no God blessed sense!

  12. Wayne says:

    The article makes it sound like if someone who is religious is less likely to be qualify then one who is not. They have cited no real example why these individuals that are just a few of much larger group, are less qualify then anyone else. Yes there are policies that one can disagree with but no signs of incompetence.

    One can argue that having a firm religious belief may have been a factor in hiring. That wouldn’t surprise me and I myself wouldn’t advise such hiring practice. However, I can see someone wanting someone in the justice department who they believe have a strong sense of right and wrong and not just worry about career advancement.

    The article did smack of religious bigotry.

    Legion

    If the laws said to round up all the Jews and kill them, you would do it. I am not an overly religious person and think laws are important but believe that there are rights and wrongs that are above any law.

  13. Fersboo says:

    It is a post by Steve Verdon, therefore the chance that it somehow is against Christians/Christian values is closer to 1.

  14. legion says:

    Wayne,
    You really need to think more clearly about the things you post before you start a serious fight.

  15. Arcs says:

    What Wayne said.

    I can find nothing in the quotes pulled from Balko or even in the WaPo article to justify:

    It looks very much like the hiring/staffing decisions at the Dept. of Justice are based more on one’s religious background and not on one’s qualifications to actually do the job.

    Maybe the staffing decisions were made on religious backgrounds (more probably, LACK of religious backgrounds), but you’re reaching with the underqualified issue. There’s no meat in the article for it.

  16. Wayne says:

    Legion
    Bring it on.

    From what I have seen of your previous posts, you will most likely just resort to name-calling.

  17. Michael says:

    Anderson:

    Not at all. No one thinks that Bush’s people are favoring evangelicals et al. because of a sincere agreement with their theology.

    It’s because they are perceived as politically reliable. As are Mormons.

    That there is the problem. They should not be hired because their religion makes them pre-disposed to agree with the President, they should be hired because their expertise makes them pre-disposed to being good at their job.

    Our founders took the religion test out of our justice system for a reason. Our 43rd President shouldn’t be adding it back in.

  18. legion says:

    Wayne,
    Then you don’t read very well. If people want to debate something rationally and intellectually, I’m there. If people want to get bare-knuckled and down in the mud, I can do that too. But your thoughtlessly light tossing off of Nazi references crosses a very large line. I’d continue to express my real disgust and pity for you, but frankly I have too much respect for James’ blog to use it to further validate your infantilism. I’m sure you’re heartbroken. Good day.

  19. Anderson says:

    If the laws said to round up all the Jews and kill them, you would do it.

    Wayne displays his utter ignorance of (1) Legion, (2) the miserable record of the Christian churches in Germany & elsewhere regarding the Holocaust, (3) fundamental courtesy, and (4) the Sermon on the Mount.

    Way to make Christians look good, Wayne.

  20. cirby says:

    It’s a pretty normal thing.

    Whenever some political appointee gets into a good job, one of the things they do is get rid of all of the folks they can, and replace them with alumni from their school. Then those middle-management types hire even younger folks to fill in the holes in their org charts.

    If you were someone in charge of a legal department, would you randomly hire folks, or would you call up your old trusted professor from Torts I and see if they have a few good interns for the summer who are going to be graduating next year?

    Why do you think so many Harvard Law graduates get jobs working under other Harvard grads? Heck, name the school, and you find a whole mess of other folks from the same university down the chain. Some businesses have legal departments that are heavily-staffed with alumni from single schools most people couldn’t even name.

  21. Wayne says:

    Anderson
    I understand Legion quite well. He came back with what? Insults. Just as I said he would.

    I can safely say that you are ignorant on my knowledge of “(1) Legion, (2) the miserable record of the Christian churches in Germany & elsewhere regarding the Holocaust, (3) fundamental courtesy, and (4) the Sermon on the Mount”. Although I admit my knowledge on #4 is very limited. However, how is any of it relevant to my post? I could have used many other case samples of the past where the legal law went against what was right and wrong. My point still stands.

    Are you going to counter my point or just throw insults like Legion? Maybe harp on a typo or something of mine?

    Cirby
    How true.

  22. Fersboo says:

    Shhhh cirby or you’ll take away Steve’s ‘fun’.

  23. legion says:

    If you were someone in charge of a legal department, would you randomly hire folks, or would you call up your old trusted professor from Torts I and see if they have a few good interns for the summer who are going to be graduating next year?

    Cirby,
    If I were put in charge of a legal department, that’s exactly what I’d do. I would not, however, call up my pastor/priest/rabbi/whatever and ask him for a list of religious zealots. A person should be hired for a job based on their qualifications for _the job_, which could include their professional connections, but shold not be based on their religious connections.

    In fact, if it can be shown that DoJ was actively seeking people based on such connections & dropping applications from people who didn’t pass the unpublished politico-religious litmus test, there’s probably a pretty big EEO problem to deal with…

  24. Anderson says:

    Why do you think so many Harvard Law graduates get jobs working under other Harvard grads?

    Right. The relevant difference is that Harvard Law is a top law school, and Regent (particularly when the Goodling brood were graduating) is a 4th-tier bottom-feeder. It may be fashionable to pretend there is no general difference between graduates of good law schools and graduates of barely-accredited schools, but I would beg to differ.

  25. Gollum says:

    They have cited no real example why these individuals that are just a few of much larger group, are less qualify then anyone else.

    Goodling is 33, has all of six months of field experience, and no other career accomplishments (reported publicly, anyway) that would distinguish her either as a jurist or an administrator. Wait, other than – – not to belabor the point – – her law degree from Regent.

    Even that doesn’t trouble me too much as far as her being hired as a Justice employee. She could well be an AUSA somewhere and that would probably be fine. But Goodling was chief counsel and liaison to the White House, participating in very serious decisions, including those to fire unappoint US Attorneys that weren’t towing the doctrinal line.

    Wayne, do you seriously want to argue that Goodling was qualified for that job? Or do you want admit that “having a firm religious belief may have been a factor in her hiring?”

  26. Wayne says:

    Gollum

    As compare with individuals who held positions in past administration, yes. Probably wouldn’t be someone I would choose then again if I knew more maybe I would.

    As I recall, the MSM said the extraordinary amount of young inexperience personnel that Clinton brought in was a good thing.

    Got to go, maybe more tomorrow.

  27. floyd says:

    Religiosity is not a word in “real” english.
    It is a sure sign of pseudo-intelectuosity![lol]

  28. Anderson says:

    Religiosity is not a word in “real” english.

    Shorter OED attests to it; the sense of “affected or excessive religiousness” harks back to the late 18th century.

    Ixnay on intellectuosity, or pseudo-intellecutosity for that matter.

  29. Anderson says:

    Misspelling “pseudo-intellectuosity” is a badge of honor, btw. Just in case anyone was curious.

  30. floyd says:

    Anderson; Thank you for making my point!
    BTW, I always enjoy your commentary!