A group of California attorneys say they are literally on a mission from God to replace four current judges with themselves. They are running for San Diego Superior Court judge on June 8.
“We believe our country is under assault and needs Christian values,” said candidate Craig Candelore, who believes “God has called upon us to do this.” The campaign is supported by clergymembers, gun enthusiasts, and opponents of reproductive choice and same-gender marriage.
This is simply un-American. It threatens to take us back to the 17th century of the Puritans and the monarchy-centered Europe from which they came.
For most people in the history of the world, no one got to vote on anything. Kings made the laws, local big shots implemented them, and if you didn’t like it, tough luck. “Courts” were local appendages of political and economic power that simply decided how things would be. There were no separate “judges”—the “judge” was either the guy who made the law, or it was a guy appointed by the guy who made the law. If he made a decision the king or lord didn’t like, he’d hang—and he knew it.
So in the Bad Old Days (the Pharoahs, the Dark Ages, Russia today), “judges” knew the outcomes of cases ahead of time, and then looked for ways to justify these decisions. In places like Iran, Turkey, and China today, those justifications include “hooliganism” and “insults to the state.”
Although we tend to take it for granted, the creation of an independent court system, and the separation of judges from lawmakers, is a spectacular innovation that has only been tried on a limited basis in human history. I imagine most people living under this system would say they prefer it to the alternative.
So it’s crucial to have judges who are free to adjudicate the law independent of political concerns. And it’s equally crucial that they be free to do this independent of their own personal interests. Otherwise, what’s the point of the law?
Unfortunately, 33 out of 50 American states now have elections for judges. This doesn’t have to be a disaster—after all, people COULD vote for judicial candidates based on their wisdom, their training, and their demonstrated fairness. But anyone who went to high school knows that that’s NOT how elections work.
Indeed, candidates Candelore, Bill Trask and Larry Kincaid have been rated by the San Diego County Bar Association as “lacking some or all of the qualities of professional ability, experience, competence, integrity, and temperament” needed in judges.
But their platform is not competence. Their platform is the outcome of their judicial decisions—which they are announcing in advance.
I don’t want ANY judges who know the outcome of their cases in advance, even if I would agree with the decisions. I’ve been in countries where people go to “court” knowing the decision has been made before they utter a word of defense. I never, ever felt safe there. Would you?
This is not some abstract issue. Imagine being involved in a custody battle with your ex, knowing your case will be decided by a judge’s notion of your “morality:” “You won’t raise this child Christian? You don’t get to parent him.” Or you’re denied the right to buy a home because you’re an unmarried couple: “This is not a lifestyle the court condones.” We’re talking real lives here, not just theory.
Although imperfect, American law intends to let people do what they want in private. For better or worse, the regulation of sexuality is a key focus of organized Christianity. That means that if elected, these “Christian” judges will make decisions about people’s personal lives in accordance with religious values—not the 200-year-old law that guarantees the right to be left alone in “the pursuit of happiness.”
Candelore admits that he and his religious colleagues want to take over the United States and change its laws: “If we can take our judiciary, we can take our legislature and our executive branch.” This simple declaration should be the only campaign statement his opponents need. Unfortunately, many Christian voters are willing to sacrifice the America they claim to love in order to save it.