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Alabama Judicial Panel Says No To Christian Coalition Voter Guides.

Alabama's Judicial Inquiry Commission has warned candidates for state judgeships not to answer a questionnaire from the Christian Coalition or risk being investigated.

The Commission said TV preacher Pat Robertson's political group has no right to quiz judicial candidates on issues such as abortion, the legalization of gambling and tax aid to home schooling parents. The nine-member panel said sitting judges who answer the questionnaire run the risk of violating the state's Canons of Judicial Ethics, which forbid judges from giving their opinions on matters that may come before the court.

The Commission has already brought charges against one judge, Harold See, accusing him of airing misleading ads against Etowah County Judge Roy Moore as the two competed in the Republican primary for chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. (Ironically, Moore is a Christian Coalition favorite best known for displaying the Ten Commandments in his courtroom and opening some sessions with Christian prayer.)

Coalition leaders in the state had planned to use the answers on the questionnaire to compile voter guides. John Giles, president of the state Coalition chapter, called the Commission's action a violation of free speech.

"It's like sticking a match to the U.S. Constitution," Giles told The Birmingham News. He added, "We believe the public deserves and wants to know who a candidate is before they vote for that person."

In other news about the Christian Coalition:

* The Greene County, Mo., Christian Coalition chapter apparently didn't get the word urging local affiliates to pretend to be non-partisan. The local group aired ads last month on a Christian radio station in Springfield attacking Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore and lauding Republican George W. Bush.

Gore, the ad charged, has "publicly praised homosexuality and abortion while George W. Bush has embraced traditional family values." The ad goes on to note that the next president may be able to appoint several Supreme Court justices.

* Florida allies of the Christian Coalition fared poorly in some recent elections. For example, a former Seminole County, Fla., Christian Coalition officer lost his bid to unseat a county commissioner. In a Republican runoff election Oct. 3, Bob West, former Florida field director for the Coalition, lost to incumbent Daryl McLain 45 percent to 55 percent. During the campaign, McLain accused West of distorting his positions on Coalition voter guides.

In addition, John Dowless, also a former Coalition official, lost his bid for the state House of Representatives. In a runoff election, Dowless was defeated by Andy Gardiner, 46 percent to 54 percent.

Meanwhile, Lee County Sheriff John McDougall, a Religious Right activist, lost in the GOP run-off to Rod Shoap by 68 percent to 32 percent. McDougall was an outspoken opponent of abortion, gay rights, feminism and church-state separation. He used his office website to insist that America must say, "Jesus Christ, we are sorry for having betrayed our promise to you by having turned our backs on you and your Commandments."

After a protest letter from Americans United's legal department last year, the sheriff removed the religious language.
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Publication:Church & State
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U6AL
Date:Nov 1, 2000
Words:506
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