Pryor vote about integrity

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Unfortunately, Bill Pryor seems to be paying a hefty price for his convictions.

But the real cost will be shouldered by the people served by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta - and Americans who believe in integrity.

Pryor, the Alabama Attorney General nominated for the 11th Circuit judgeship, faces an uphill battle in the Senate confirmation process. Republicans on Wednesday used a one-vote majority in the Judiciary Committee to advance Pryor's nomination to the full Senate. But the committee vote - 10 Republicans for the nomination, nine Democrats opposed - doesn't bode well for the full Senate, where he is likely to become the third judicial nominee to face a Democratic filibuster.

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Yet, Pryor's nomination has turned particularly unpleasant. The New York Times on Wednesday editorialized against Pryor's confirmation, calling him an "extremist judicial nominee" and warning that his rulings "would probably do substantial harm to the rights of all Americans."

The objections center on Pryor's beliefs - his convictions, if you will. A Catholic, Pryor has been forthright in discussing his opposition to abortion and his strong feelings about gays.

His views are admittedly right of center, but those are his personal beliefs. And Pryor has pledged to separate his political opinions from his commitment to upholding the law - even saying he will uphold the current law allowing for legal abortions if confirmed to the appeals court - as he should.

We wonder, of course, if Pryor's convictions would raise such a furor if they fell left of center, instead of to the conservative right. If he were an avowed atheist, who held to no moral consciousness or who felt no connection to a greater purpose or a greater service, would the objections be so vociferous? Or would he be hailed as an intellect, an ideal impartial judge who could clearly interpret the laws based solely on the words in those laws- and not the soul, or the heart behind them or the "extremist" views of a Christian?

Ultimately, we believe we need men and women of integrity in our court system - and throughout our country's leadership. We believe our judges should be men and women with convictions - with beliefs that guide their lives and their actions. And, we believe those men and women should also be intelligent enough to delineate those beliefs from their responsibilities on the bench.

If we lose respect for integrity in our leaders and judges, what will we have gained?