A Bush nominee to the federal bench is under fire this week for participating in a Massachusetts commitment ceremony for two women held four years ago and officiated at by a United Church of Christ minister.
U.S. Senator Sam Brownback, one of the most conservative members of the Senate, has placed a hold on the nomination of Janet T. Neff, whose nomination by Bush has been approved by the U.S. Judiciary Committee.
The Rev. John Thomas, general minister and president of the United Church of Christ, issued a statement today saying that:
It's a sad day when participation in a ceremony sanctioned by the church, and breaking no federal or state laws, becomes a barrier to service in the federal judiciary. All churches, regardless of their theological convictions, should be concerned about the chilling effect of such an action on the ability of church members to freely practice their faith according to the dictates of their own conscience.
The Family Research Council, according to The Boston Globe, has also raised concerns about Neff's nomination. The hypocrisy is amazing. Brownback and his allies in the Religious Right routinely claim that conservatives are denied seats on the courts because of religious opposition to gay marriage. Neff's legal views on same sex marriage are not clear. But her participation in a religious ceremony should not be cause for a member of the senate to block her nomination to the bench.
This is not the first time that the theological views of the United Church of Christ have become a political issue. Earlier this fall a Republican candidate in Connecticut running for the U.S. House attacked her opponent simply for serving as a minister in the "liberal" UCC. The Rev. Scott MacLean, however, won the Republican nomination in a landslide.