Right Opinion

Bogren Derailment: Federal Courts Must Be Assured of Religious Liberty

Tony Perkins · Jun. 13, 2019

Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) has said from the beginning that he takes his job seriously. And for the last several weeks, he’s proven it — standing up to the D.C. establishment in a one-man crusade to protect America’s courts. “The people of Missouri sent me to Washington to fight for their values.” And this morning, people of faith in every state are grateful.

To a lot of Republicans, the nomination of Michigan attorney Michael Bogren seemed like a sure thing. He had a lot of experience, the support of his two Democratic home-state senators, and a nod from President Trump. But this was a man up for a lifetime appointment, and that meant the former attorney general of Missouri wasn’t going to take anyone’s word for it. He decided to dig a little deeper on Bogren’s nomination — and every supporter of natural marriage should be glad he did. What he found was a streak of anti-religious hostility, vicious enough, Hawley believed, to disqualify him.

When Michael Bogren defended East Lansing for booting a Christian family from their farmers’ market, he had a choice. He could argue the case humanely — or he could stoop to the Left’s tactics and smear the Tenneses as haters. He chose wrongly, comparing the Catholic couple to the KKK for following their church’s teachings on marriage. His supporters tried to dismiss the string of hateful rhetoric. He’s an attorney, they argued. He has to represent his clients. “Lawyers have a duty to their clients,” Senator Hawley agreed. “I’ve represented many myself. But a lawyer can give a client a vigorous defense without stooping to personal attacks.”

Bogren didn’t see it that way. When Hawley gave him an opportunity to walk back his statements, he didn’t budge. Instead, the nominee for Western Michigan’s district court stood by them. The senator — and conservatives everywhere — were flabbergasted. “Tens of millions of Americans believe what the Tennes family believes about marriage, including Catholics, Jews, Mormons, Muslims, Protestants, and more. We are in a moment in history when the basic human liberty of these citizens to live, work, and otherwise participate in public life is threatened by those who view their beliefs as toxic and unacceptable. The right to religious free exercise enshrined in the First Amendment is the fundamental freedom, and we need judges who will uphold it.” This, he insisted, is not acceptable.

For the next several days, Senator Hawley stuck to his guns, using every possible platform to warn Americans about Bogren’s case. People underestimated the freshman senator, insisting there was no way he could fight alone and win. But before long, he wasn’t alone. FRC and the Conservative Action Project also sounded the alarm, drawing enough attention to eventually get other Republicans on the record. Tuesday, after the pressure finally became too much to ignore, Bogren asked for his name to be withdrawn.

Friends and supporters were angry. Michael Bogren was a good man, they said, whose positions had been “mischaracterized.” He may be a great man — and many people have testified to that effect — but he made a huge mistake using the Left’s playbook to attack Christians. There is no place on the bench or in this administration for those who use the same language as the Southern Poverty Law Center to describe Bible-believing Christians.

There are still people on the Hill who thought the Senate should take a chance on Michael Bogren — and give him a chance to prove his originalist mettle. But a lifetime appointment on a federal bench is no time to play the odds. If Republicans are wrong, countless Americans could pay for it. At a time when religious freedom is under unprecedented attack, conservatives have to draw a big bright line — and this attorney crossed it.

“This is the right outcome,” Senator Hawley said late Tuesday. “I look forward to getting back to confirming more pro-Constitution judges.” Thanks to this administration, who’s nominated dozens of qualified men and women, he’ll have plenty to choose from.

For more from Senator Hawley on this development, don’t miss my exclusive interview on “Washington Watch.”

Originally published here.

Planned Parenthood’s Unhealthy Operations

In the battle between patient safety and abortion extremism, score one for Planned Parenthood. In Missouri, where Governor Mike Parson ® is going to the mat to protect women, a judge has decided that he knows better than state health officials about the dangers of a St. Louis clinic. Exposing women to life-threatening hazards is okay, he’s ruled, if it helps the abortion giant save face.

While Planned Parenthood drones on about the risks of pro-life legislation, it turns out the real threat is behind their clinic doors. Based on state records and patient reports, the group’s St. Louis location has been a menace to patients for years. “Since 2009,” Washington Times reporter Valerie Richardson points out, “Coalition for Life volunteers… outside the clinic have recorded 74 ambulance trips to emergency rooms. The lion’s share was for hemorrhaging, according to documents obtained by Operation Rescue, which has dubbed the clinic ‘the most dangerous abortion facility in America.’” In just the last month, ambulances have been called three times.

None of this surprised Missouri health inspectors who’ve tried to close the clinic until it corrects a frightening list of “deficiencies.” “There are a number of serious health concerns that still exist at the Planned Parenthood St. Louis facility,” Parson told reporters, explaining there were “multiple violations” and “several incidents of botched abortions.” “We should all agree that regardless of the number of abortion facilities, every step should be taken to ensure that all laws are followed for the safety and well-being of women’s health care.”

Unfortunately, Judge Michael Stelzer appears to care more for the well-being of one group: Planned Parenthood. After keeping the clinic open after the state’s deadline, Stezler has decided to extend that goodwill through late June — overriding the concerns of health inspectors and refusing to hold the abortion location accountable. The judge justified the move by arguing that Missouri couldn’t possibly close its only remaining clinic. But that’s like saying we should let a restaurant get away with food poisoning just because it’s the only one around.

State Senator Bob Onder was incensed. On Tuesday’s “Washington Watch,” he joined me to talk about how outrageous it is that Missouri’s health department no longer has the power to keep people safe. He knows the head of the agency, who happens to be an accomplished and trusted Ob-gyn. “I can’t imagine a better person to be running the Department of Health when it comes to issues of women’s health. Honestly, this case shouldn’t be before Judge Stelzer at all.” He’s right. Whether it’s the last clinic — or one of a thousand — shouldn’t have any bearing on whether or not it has a license to operate. If they’re not complying with the laws and regulations and hurting patients, they don’t deserve to be in business.

“A fundamental principle of government is that no one is above the law and when it comes to protecting health and safety of patients in any setting,” Senator Onder insisted. “You have to abide by the laws and regulations that are meant to protect patients. And that’s what this is about.”

Unfortunately for women, playing by the rules has never been Planned Parenthood’s strong suit. Worse, in places like Missouri, they have help in their cover-up: activist judges who are willing to elevate politics over patients. The Left can talk about its contrived coat-hanger scenario of overturning Roe all it wants. But the drama in Missouri ought to show everyone — women suffer just as much with Planned Parenthood as without it. Maybe more.

Originally published here.

This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Mr. Perkins is president of FRC.

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