Monday, September 05, 2005

Nominate Michael W. McConnell

Michael W. McConnell should be nominated to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court. Such a decision is one that the President is surely considering, having nominated McConnell on September 4, 2001, to a seat vacated by Stephen H. Anderson in Tenth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. McConnell, in short, already holds the president's trust.

I know little about him, the current composition of the Court, not to mention the other potential candidates. Nonetheless, what I do know is that whatever one thinks about his allegedly conservative political affinities, McConnell is above all a brilliant legal scholar and judge. McConnell taught at the University of Chicago Law School for 12 years. He is an authority on religion and the constitution and the first ammendment, two issues that have received more attention since 9/11 and the global war on terror, issues that will continue to vex law students and laypersons alike.

I had the occasion to hear him speak at the University of Minnesota on the anti-establishment clause. He reviewed the reasons for and against the separation of church and state, and why the separation is good for religion, civic virtue, and liberal democracy. It took a while, he said, but the argument that government is bad for religion won the day. Religion has flourished in American because government has refrained from exercising its authority in matters proper to the church. And America's government has been a beneficiary of religion, the first of America's political institutions, as Tocqueville noted.

McConnell's experience and style of learning is impressive, and I urge his nomination. As Madison said of Jefferson in Federalist No. 49, everything from his pen "marks a turn of thinking original, comprehensive and accurate; and is the more worthy of attention, as it equally displays a fervent attachment to republican government, and an enlightened view of the dangerous propensities against which it ought to be guarded."

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