Sunday, August 14, 2005


Justice Sunday II

It’s about 4:00 P.M., and I am sitting in the Media Center at Two Rivers Baptist Church. At the table with me is Ken ‘The Photography Guy,” who is with U.S. News & World Report. Ken seems like a nice guy, especially for the MSM (mainstream media, for y’all normal folks). I have always had a fondness for media photographers, as they are usually laid back and somewhat normal. Writers, on the other hand, can usually make you uncomfortable with their stressful personalities that inspire coronary gridlock. Ken didn’t even sneer too hard when, at an inquiry to my identity, I revealed that I was a blogger. “The town crier,” he remarked. That’s pretty good for this room.

Let’s just say that it isn’t too hard to tell the bloggers from the MSM. The bloggers, for instance, aren’t complaining about the food spread (“those frugal evangelicals” – no kidding, that’s what she said), the technology at the church, or that they aren’t in D.C. or Las Vegas. In fact, I’m trying to make this update quick, as the reporter sitting behind me (the one who made the line about above about the “frugal evangelicals”) is starting in on bloggers and how she doesn’t “have time to read someone else’s opinions every day.” Well, of course she doesn’t. She’s probably too busy getting her own out in her “unbiased articles.” I won’t include her employer’s name, but let’s just say that it is a national publication.

At 3:00 P.M. (Central Time), Family Research Council hosted a press conference with several of the key figures involved with the implementation of Justice Sunday II, including Tony Perkins (President, Family Research Council), Bishop Harry Jackson (Senior Pastor, Hope Christian Church, College Park, Maryland), and Dr. Jerry Sutton (Senior Pastor, Two Rivers Baptist Church, Nashville, Tennessee), amongst others. Since I am not a member of mainstream media (and because the NASCAR race at Watkins Glen ran long), I chose to show up fashionably late, walking in during the middle of the show. Besides, I wouldn’t want for the MSM to get nervous that bloggers were taking their craft too seriously. Bill Hobbs must feel the same way, because he has yet to secure his media credentials as of yet.

The opening statements were as expected and, thus, not overly interesting. However, the question-and-answer session that followed was pointed and biting – and dominated by the MSM. Most questions were aimed at Tony Perkins, and I thought that he answered them quite well. He did make sure to point out that Justice Sunday II was not just about Judge John Roberts and his pending nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. He indicated that this rally was forward-looking and aimed at future nominations, as well. I’m not sure if I take that on its face in relation to Chief Justice Rehnquist’s failing health or if there is secretly hope (as Robert Novack wrote last week) amongst conservative Christian groups that the next nominee will have a solid, known conservative record. Perkins also gave an answer that showed FRC’s backing of states’ rights in response to a rather liberal question about abortion regulations.

Dr. Jerry Sutton, senior pastor of the host church for the event, deflected criticism by a member of the MSM that Two Rivers Baptist was hosting this event by pointing to the church’s hosting of CNN’s “Crossfire” earlier this summer. I thought the exchange to be humorous, because the reporter should have done her homework before walking into that uppercut.

Also impressive was Bishop Jackson, who was basically accused of trying to have judges appointed who would strip civil rights from the Constitution, which would be hypocritical of him since he is black. Jackson was calm, cool, and reminded me oratorally of a young Alan Keyes (same mannerisms, strong voice). I imagine that he is quite the firebrand in the pulpit.

A few random notes… The coordination of the schedule is down-to-the-minute, and FRC should be commended for that. Also, security is extremely tight around the church. It’s not Capitol Hill-tight or Supreme Court-tight, but it would be difficult for someone to cause a disturbance. I didn’t see any protestors, although, even as I was late for a media member, I arrived early for the main show. Everyone with FRC has also been extremely courteous, as has been my experience with previous FRC, Heritage Foundation, and Eagle Forum productions. Also, I have been inundated with tons of information, including packets on Rebecca St. James, Bishop Jackson’s projects, and Fidelis (an organization dedicated to “Defending Life, Faith and Family”) – and that’s the information that wasn’t with the press kits prepared by FRC but was provided privately. That said, I should be able to blog about this event and its participants all night. Well, at least until I get tired.

Well, it’s off to the sanctuary, where the event is set to take place. My immediate plan is to sit in the “roving media” section, so that I am free to move around and update my posts at my leisure. I won’t be able to put these on-line until later, but my hope is that the time lag isn’t too great. Then again, the nice engineers here at Two Rivers are presently setting up some Ethernet connections. So far, so good…


It’s 5:30 P.M. – 30 minutes until the event - and the very large sanctuary is packed. I saw Ed and Cyndi Bryant as they made their way through security. They seemed to be glad to be here.

I would post more observations, but, frankly, that female reporter is starting to tell perfect strangers about losing her virginity and her various sexual escapades. I don’t need that now. Besides, the praise music is starting in the sanctuary.


The media reactions during the run-up of praise music and prayer prior to actual event are quite interesting. If I had to guess, I would say that it is for many of them the first time that they have been in a church, or at least they haven’t been in one in a long run of Sundays. Like a fish out of water, I would say, as they sit while thousands stand, talking while others pray as a group. I suppose that they would answer that they are trying to remain unbiased, but I suspect that if they were covering an event in a Buddhist temple and were asked to remove their shoes, they would probably show proper respect.


The speaking has started with Tony Perkins leading things off. His best line summarizes his first speech – “We do not claim the right to speak for every American, but we do claim the right to speak.”

Perkins was followed by new Focus on the Family President Jim Daly, who spoke about why the critics fear events like Justice Sunday II and why they are incorrect. Interestingly, the camera during Mr. Daly’s speech seemed fixated on Ed & Cyndi Bryant, staying on them for between 30 and 45 seconds in a shot one would expect at the Academy Awards. I don’t know if any other 2006 Senate candidates were present, but I would have seen them if they were, so…

Mr. Daly was representing Focus on the Family because Dr. James Dobson, who recently stepped down as FOTF's President, is in France. Dobson, however, did speak to the audience via videotape. He invoked the Gettysburg Address – “by the people, of the people, for the people” – and how recent Supreme Court decisions – those involving the Ten Commandments and the Kelo decision stripping private property rights – as justification for conservative involvement in the judicial process. Dobson said that the Supreme Court was influenced by the Left, while the Left was being influenced by the doctrines of Eastern Europe. Dobson admitted that even he didn’t know if John Roberts was an “originalist,” but he thinks that he may be. I found that to be interesting, because it really doesn’t jive with Focus on the Family’s official position on Roberts.

Again, I loved Bishop Jackson, this time because he showed no partisanship. He spoke about telling both parties that we – Christian conservatives – are not backing down. Amen, brother.

Tony Perkins had a wonderful demonstration regarding baseball and how a baseball game can be influenced by how the umpire views the size of home plate. He then spoke about how the Supreme Court has been changing the size of the plate for American citizens. As a former pitcher, I got this analogy greatly. It also makes sense about the frustration that Christian conservatives feel, because what the Supreme Court is doing is akin to an umpire deciding in the fifth inning that two strikes is an out.

Congressman Tom DeLay had a few interesting additions. Most importantly, he noted that Justice Sunday II was not a protest against anything. Rather, he stated that JS II was a call to action for the protection of the Constitution. In his words, he said, “We need to protect the Constitution, so that it can protect us.” DeLay also acknowledged that activist judges exist on both sides, but that most were products of the Left. His beef with the activist judges was their pushing of policies that were not endorsed within the elected branches of government. Overall, an adequate speech.

OK, I’m missing a few speakers as I run back and forth from the sanctuary to the Media Center and type this post. I think I’ll return to the event before Zell Miller hits the podium.


We’re in the homestretch now…

Bill Donohue, President of The Catholic League, wants more than John Roberts, who he believes is a “nice guy,” on the bench. He praised the unity of Catholics and Evangelical Christians in political issues, saying, “We are on the same side.” He also sees us winning the war. “The vector of change is moving our direction.” Again, Ed and Cyndi Bryant were on the screen for an extended time. I am starting to wonder if Jay Bush is directing the show…

The crowd erupted as Senator Zell Miller took the stage. In his tireless Southern drawl and strong tone, he derided recent Supreme Court decisions and the logic behind them. He asked why the government felt the need to post “No Smoking” signs near gas pumps so that people wouldn’t harm themselves but felt the need to remove the Ten Commandments from public places to remind us of the damage of a sinful life. The fiery Georgian issued a call to action. “Cover this confirmation process with a blanket of prayer. When they make it harder for us to pray, we just pray harder!”

Phyllis Schlafly, President of Eagle Forum, also mentioned the Kelo decision. I found that extremely interesting, because the several references to Kelo were on the heels of Grover Norquist’s prediction at the blogger lunch that this could be as influential as Roe in uniting conservatives. Schlafly also spoke of how umpires can’t change the rules of the game of baseball. I was told in law school by more than one professor that judges were umpires. If that’s true, then judges should start acting more like umpires, using them as models of professional guidance.

A face I knew, Jordan Lorence of the Alliance Defense Fund, appeared in a video bumper. He stated that the Constitution should be interpreted by judges in the same way that contracts are interpreted by judges. (Judge Bork said nearly the same thing via tape shortly thereafter.) Lorence also said that the Constitution is viewed by liberal activist judges as their own personal Etch-A-Sketch, to be erased by at their personal leisure. I’ve heard that analogy before, but I thought it beared repeating.

Cathy Cleaver Ruse, Senior Fellow for Legal Studies at Family Research Council, raised an interesting question: Have the pro-aborts ever had a landmark legislative victory? I can’t think of one off hand.

Because the applause had run long, Dr. Jerry Sutton, host pastor for the event, had to cut his remarks short. That’s a shame, because he spoke of results-based jurisprudence. It’s a philosophy I believed to be at work after my stint in law school and that was endorsed by a few of my professors. Results-based jurisprudence says that judges already have their mind made up before the case even comes before their court, and their only task is trying to find enough precedence to reinforce their judicial opinion (a task usually left to their unfortunate clerks). Sutton is a good speaker, and his remarks drew loud, emotional applause from the audience.

I left the sanctuary as Rebecca St. James, Grammy Award-winning Christian music artist, took the stage. The event has concluded, and I am off to the Media Room to see if any of the speakers will speak to someone who is “just a blogger.”


No luck on the interviews (I had prepared five questions for Zell Miller, but to no avail), as only those who were available for interviews after the press conference were available for interviews after the main event. I was able to speak briefly with Tony Perkins and Bishop Jackson, but there weren’t any revelations worth repeating here. I still haven’t seen Bill Hobbs. I was able to see Van Hilleary leaving the auditorium, and Ed and Cyndi Bryant spoke to me as they were heading out the door after speaking for nearly an hour after the event with dozens of audience members about such topics as judicial nominations and the role of the Senate Judiciary Committee. After it was apparent that everything had died down, I decided to head home. Well, at least to the hotel room that is functioning as home for the time being…


So, what immediate conclusions did I draw from Justice Sunday II?

1. Justice Sunday II was not about Judge John Roberts.
Justice Sunday II was about the need for Christian involvement in the nation’s political process with a particular emphasis on the conduct of the judiciary. Christians cannot be lulled into the political slumber the resulted in the rise of secular humanism through the schools and courts in the middle and late Twentieth Century. While no one minimalized the importance of Judge Roberts’ confirmation in the Senate, he certainly was not the focus, as many had predicted. In fact, the Kelo decision was mentioned more often by speakers than Judge John Roberts.

2. Because of the massive goals of Justice Sunday II (see No. 1), it will be a long time until we know whether the event led to successful change in the Christian community.
The speakers were convincing. The crowd was receptive. Will this event shake the millions of Christians who believe that they shouldn’t live as salt and light in their public lives (the workplace, through the government, etc.) to the point that they embrace their call to action? I’m not so sure. Family Research Council informed the press that over 79 million people viewed the telecast/webcast/live event. Surely some of those people will feel called to action, but will it be enough to see results?

3. The chasm between the MSM and the Blogosphere is larger than I realized, and I’m glad that I am on this side of the canyon.
Having not worked around the MSM in a while, I had forgotten how much I didn’t like working events with them. While some exceptions do exist, most members of the mainstream media that were covering this event hated – and I am not prone to use that word lightly – the amateur contingent in the room. They may not have said it to our faces, but they did say it to each other (hey, I can eavesdrop with the best of them) and showed it through some of their mannerisms. We’re not there yet, but I can foresee a power struggle coming that might get ugly. Again, we’ll see…

Overall, I was honored to attend the event. Thanks to FRC and Two Rivers Baptist Church for helping make my attendance possible. It was nice to dust off the journalistic skills that had been in safe keeping for so long. I did take some pictures, but they will have to wait until I return to Knoxville and my precious scanner. Other reports on the event can be found from Bill Hobbs (who apparently did show, although I didn’t see him), Blake Wylie (press conference here, main event here), Brittney (scroll down for several posts), and Red State Rant (scroll down for several posts). (I won't link to the Tennessee Guerilla Women since they have been erasing comments by conservative posters on their site. The day they decide to quit their disgraceful censorship is the day I will start linking to their site.)

There will probably be more on this tomorrow evening, but that's all for now.

We still have some bugs left from our recent template changes, your comment is still there, but you have to go to the post page to see it. We should have this fixed soon.

Assuming the worst about people isn't a good idea, though I have my doubts about you too.
Very good overview, Rob. Thanks for providing it. I'm looking forward to the pictures.

I can also say that every FOF event I've ever attended was nearly perfectly done by a staff that was always polite and gracious. There was about a 10 minute delay in letting folks enter the building but event staff explained it wasn't the fault of Two Rivers but the security team. I didn't see or hear of any specific problem. The crowd was disappointed, because of the heat, but didn't really grumble.

Event staff did request that a member of the media leave the general seating area I was in explaining that he needed to move to the designated areas.
I was there, but I couldn't stay long due to family matters. I got there just before the broadcast began, and exited about 7:45 p.m.

The funny thing about MSM disdain of the "amatuers" is that quite a number of bloggers are former MSM journalists.
I thought I saw Alice the other day! Or maybe it was Justice Souter –skipping in Wonderland, immune to and above the laws he passes.
Great coverage Rob. I don't have a problem with the content of this event. I just think it is wrong to hold it in God's house. They should have done this thing in somewhere like Municipal. I just feel like reverance for the house of God is more conservative Christian than inviting a bunch of politicians, including one with questionable ethics, to the sanctuary to talk politics. By the way, I am a Southern Baptist and former member of Two Rivers.
Glen, I imagine the reason it was held at Two Rivers instead of someplace like Municipal Auditorium was economic. I don't know what it costs to rent the place, but I'm sure compared to using Two Rivers for free it was more economical.

I understand where you're coming from, but we do lots of stuff in God's House besides just have worship services. Church league basketball, karate, aerobics, yoga, pizza parties, concerts, book clubs, scout meetings...the list goes on and on. That's why I don't have a problem with using the church for political meetings.

Many of the speakers at Justice Sunday were involved in the ministry. In fact, I think only DeLay and Zell Miller were politicians among the dozen or so speakers. If you get a chance, try and catch a replay of it or you can order the DVD for free at
Glad to know about all the bloggers working at Justice Sunday 2! I would have loved to meet a few, but I was working on the camera crew and couldn't get away from my station.

I have one small correction to your post: Two Rivers hosted MSNBC's "Hardball", not "Crossfire".
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