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Bringing the case against judges

Are 'activist judges' ruining America? That's the fear of a newly formed coalition of religious conservatives who are urging Congress to push back.

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'Activist judges" are out of control and waging a war on faith, religious conservatives are charging. That's why - even as the United States Senate prepares for a battle over the president's judicial nominations - a conservative coalition is working to broaden the fight to the federal judiciary as a whole. Its ultimate goal is to force Congress to rein in the judges.

The Terri Schiavo case is but the latest in a litany of court decisions that have sparked conservatives' ire. Many were also outraged by rulings that called the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional and that removed the Ten Commandments and Chief Justice Roy Moore from the Alabama high court.

"An atmosphere of atheism is being forced upon us by the courts," says the Rev. Rick Scarborough, a Baptist pastor from Texas who heads the new alliance of Evangelicals, Catholics, and Jews that is leading the charge.

The coalition - called the Judeo- Christian Council for Constitutional Restoration - is unabashedly pressing for radical steps. Congress has the power to undertake these, it says, given its authority to establish federal courts under Article III of the US Constitution.

Proposed steps include withdrawing the courts' jurisdiction over all cases related to the acknowledgment of God or to the protection of marriage. They would extend to impeaching judges that substitute "their own views for the original meaning of the Constitution," or base a decision on foreign law; and to reducing or eliminating funding for the federal courts when judges "overstep their constitutional authority."

"This is the shot over the bow," said Dr. Scarborough last Friday in Washington, as the group - which represents some 40 organizations - held the first of a series of conferences it plans to organize across the country to marshal grass-roots support. "We are trying to restore this country to its constitutional moorings so we are ruled by law and not by judges," he says.

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