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Jewish World Review Jan. 16, 2001 / 21 Teves, 5761

Cal Thomas

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John Ashcroft and the religious double standard --
DURING THE LAST presidential campaign, there was much "G-d-talk'' from Vice President Al Gore and his running mate, Joe Lieberman. Some commentators decided that Lieberman's injection of G-d into the campaign was not only something new but something wonderful. When George W. Bush talked of G-d, and especially Jesus, however, that was something -- according to these same people -- that threatened the republic and made people who do not share his views feel inferior.

I recall no senator, and certainly no liberal special interest group, raising the type of concerns about Gore and Lieberman that they now raise about Attorney General-designate John Ashcroft.

Ashcroft is an Evangelical Christian, who believes he is commissioned to speak openly about his faith and to follow its precepts in private and in public. One might reasonably argue that we don't suffer from too much union of personal faith and practice but too little, especially as we have witnessed the consequences of their complete detachment these last eight years under President Clinton.

Since Christopher Columbus, many who came to these shores believed they were on a mission from G-d and that G-d had a purpose for them and for America. George Washington spoke about the necessity of G-d and religion in the lives of individuals and in the laws of nations. So did James Madison, Thomas Jefferson (though a deist), John Adams, Abraham Lincoln and many other presidents and lesser leaders. Some may have meant it more than others. Some may have used G-d's name in vain attempts to gain and hold onto political power. Some might have had different definitions of G-d, but a reading of the history of America provides compelling evidence that many leaders were motivated by G-d and by Scripture to write laws which expanded freedom and opportunities for more of us, and to hold accountable those who would violate a standard set by Him for relationships, behavior and life's value, itself.

Mario Cuomo said he took seriously the Vatican's opposition to the death penalty and no one was executed on his watch as New York governor (though he took less seriously his church's teaching on abortion and many unborn babies died on that same watch). Jimmy Carter may have been the most open about his faith of any president but he, too, toed the liberal line on social policies.

Why is John Ashcroft being treated by some liberals as the second coming of hypocritical Phariseeism? There are at least two reasons.

One is that his faith actually informs his policies and those policies are conservative. The left likes the policies of liberal leaders who invoke G-d but dislikes the policies of conservatives who operate in G-d's name. It isn't G-d they fear. It's the policies. If an atheist is a liberal, it would be no problem for them. But an atheist who is pro-life, for example, is as anathema to them as a pro-life Christian. Similarly, a pro-choice Christian is acceptable to the left.

The second reason for Ashcroft's public flogging by liberals, religious and secular, is that he truly is a law-abider. He has and will enforce laws he disagrees with because he respects the law more than his predecessor at Justice. Eighteen of Ashcroft's 24 years in government were in positions where he was an enforcer of laws, not a maker of them. During that time, he upheld the lottery laws in Missouri, though he opposed the lottery and believed the state had taken a vice it once outlawed and turned it into a virtue when government decided it could make money.

Faithfulness to the law is the real reason the left fears Ashcroft so much. They worry that enough documents and testimony from leftover career employees might stay behind to indict the former trustees of the Department of Justice for lies, cover-ups and obstruction of justice. Their worst nightmare is someone who actually believes in the law enough to enforce it and not interpret it for his own political or personal benefit.

John Ashcroft is such a man.

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