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The Religious Affiliation of
ABOVE: Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers (left) and her religious leader, Ron Key (right).
Miers grew up attending Presbyterian, Episcopalian and Catholic churches. Her mother was very religious. In the 1980s, after becoming a lawyer in Dallas, she began attending the Valley View Christian Church. Miers was an active member of the Valley View Christian Church for about 25 years prior to her nomination to the Supreme Court.
The Valley View Christian Church is a theologically and morally conservative Protestant congregation. It is openly affiliated with the North American Christian Convention (NACC) and has widely been reported as an "Evangelical" congregation, a label whose accuracy depends on one's definition of "Evangelical." The Valley View Christian Church is part of the religious body known as the "Christian Churches and Churches of Christ" (often abbreviated "CC/CC"). The North American Christian Convention has been the key organizational event for the relatively loosely organized "Christian Churches and Churches of Christ" group since 1927. The Christian Churches/Churches of Christ (which normally eschews use of the word "denomination") is typically described as the "moderate" or "middle" branch of the Stone-Campbell movement, positioned theologically between the more conservative "Churches of Christ" and the more liberal "Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)."
As a young adult, Miers considered herself Catholic, according to her longtime friend and colleague, Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht. Hecht has also described Miers' previous religious affiliation as "half Catholic, half Episcopalian." In the weeks immediately following Miers' nomination to the Supreme Court, there were many news reports stating that Miers had been a Catholic or had considered herself a Catholic. Miers' friend Nathan Hecht was probably a major source for this belief. But further investigation by the Dallas Diocese of the Catholic Church, statements released by the White House and subsequent interviews with other people revealed that Hecht and early news reports had been mistaken. According to these later statements, press releases and investigations, neither Harriet Miers nor anybody in her immediate family had ever been a Catholic, nor was there evidence that she had ever considered herself a Catholic.
It was widely reported that Harriet Miers, if confirmed, would have been first clearly "Evangelical" member of the U.S. Supreme Court. Ironically, the Stone-Campbell/Restoration Movement churches (including the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ) have traditionally rejected being labelled as "Evangelicals," although this rejection has greatly subsided in recent years. For a long time now, most observers outside the Stone-Campbell movement have considered them to be Evangelical because of the strong affinity between Stone-Campbell theology and values and Evangelicalism. One of the reasons that Stone-Campbell churches have avoided classification with Evangelicalism is that the Stone-Campbell movement dates back to the 1830s, and thus pre-dates the Evangelical movement by 100 years. Certain points of disagreement on theological matters -- including dispensationalism, the sovereignty of God, the importance of baptism, baptismal regeneration and the doctrine of "eternal security of the believer" -- continue to exist between the Evangelical movement and Stone-Campbell churches. Also, Stone-Campbellites in the Churches of Christ and CC/CC strongly object to "denominationalism," and some have regarded classification as Evangelicals to be a form of denominationalism, and thus less preferable than being identified simply as "Christians." People interested in the distinctions and affinities between the Evangelical and the Stone-Campbell movements may wish to read books on this topic, such as Evangelicalism & the Stone-Campbell Movement, edited by William R. Baker and published by InterVarsity Press.
On the other hand, "Evangelical" is term which currently has many different common meanings. The term is often used in a largely non-theological sense as an identifier for people with relatively "conservative" moral and ethical values. This behavioral/values-based meaning of the word "Evangelical," which is stripped of doctrinal considerations and is often used in sociological writing, clearly encompasses Harriet Miers, along with adherents of many groups who do not generally regard themselves as "Evangelicals," including Stone-Campbellites, conservative Catholics, Jehovah's Witnesses, Latter-day Saints, etc. Regardless of the current status of the ongoing debate within Stone-Campbell churches about their potential classification as "Evangelicals," Harriet Miers' conservative theology and religious practice has led to her being clearly identified as an "Evangelical," in the sense that most Americans (although not necessarily theologians) use the term. "Evangelical" seems to be a label that Miers herself is comfortable with. Many past Supreme Court justices have been Protestants, and it is possible that some of these could be classified as Evangelicals, although none are known to have referred to themselves as such. It appears that, if confirmed, Harriet Miers would have been the third Stone-Campbellite on the U.S. Supreme Court, after James C. McReynolds (who served from 1914 to 1941 and Joseph R. Lamar (1910-1916), both of whom were Disciples of Christ, i.e., members of the denomination known as the "Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)." McReynolds served on the Supreme Court during a period of time in which Miers' religious body (the Christian Church and Churches of Christ) had not even begun to be formed, until a time at which the congregations which would eventually become the CC/CC were being listed separately as "Independent" in the Disciples of Christ yearbooks.
Harriet Miers was still enrolled in the Valley View Christian Church congregation and occasionally attended meetings there even after she moved to Washington D.C. in 2000 to work in her long-time friend and associate President George W. Bush's administration. Throughout most of the past twenty-five years of Miers' membership in the Valley View Christian Church, Miers' pastor was Ron Key. Miers had a close attachment to Key. Miers even followed Key when he led a splinter group of about 150 people away from their longtime congregational home after he was replaced as the church's leader by nationally prominent radio preacher Barry McCarty. This split in the Valley View Christian Church occurred only a few weeks prior to Miers' Supreme Court nomination.
During the five years prior to Miers' nomination to the Supreme Court (2000-2005), she lived in Alexandria, Virginia and worked in Washington, D.C. During this time Miers was often unable to attend services at what she continued to consider her "home church" (Valley View Christian Church), but she remained an active churchgoer. In the Washington, D.C. area Miers has regularly attended a small number of different Episcopalian congregations. These include St. John's Episcopal Church (across the street from the White House, where Pres. Bush often attends services), Christ Episcopal Church (in Alexandria) and Falls Episcopal Church (a highly evangelical congregation near Alexandria which is in many ways similar to Valley View). Miers has also occasionally attended her family's church, the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation in Dallas. Miers' family has a longstanding association with the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation. There is a pew at the church dedicated to Miers' grandparents and leaders at this church say that Miers attends services there frequently. Miers clearly feels an affinity for Episcopalian churches due to her childhood experiences and the continued Episcopalian affiliation of parents and family. Nevertheless, Miers has clearly expressed religious views and exhibited a preference for moral/ethical standards which are regarded as more conservative those held by than mainstream American Episcopalianism and the leadership of the Episcopal Church. Despite her attendance at Episcopal church services in both Washington and Dallas, there is no evidence that Miers currently refers to herself as an "Episcopalian."
One should keep in mind that despite Harriet Miers' approximately twenty-five years as a member of the Valley View Christian Church, she is no longer a member of that group. Miers chose to not remain under the religious leadership of Barry McCarty. If Ron Key's new religious group was truly "non-denominational" and "independent", then Miers would currently be classified as a member of a new 150-person breakaway sect (in a strict taxonomic sense). Ron Key's group meets in a Doubletree Hotel in suburban Dallas. Originally, Ron Key's breakaway group had no name, but within a few weeks it had begun using the name "Cornerstone Christian Church." Ron Key has indicated that he intends for his new congregation to continue to be affiliated with the Stone-Campbell group known as the Independent Christian Churches and Churches of Christ, probably through official affiliation with the North American Christian Convention. The name of the congregation follows CC/CC conventions, and is another indicator of the congregation's intended affiliation (loose though it may be).
Miers' 25 years of membership in Stone-Campbell/Restoration Movement churches (first Valley View Christian Church and now Cornerstone Christian Church) indicate that she herself is a Stone-Campbellite. Furthermore, Miers' current theological beliefs, as reported by herself and those close to her, are solidly Stone-Campbellite as far as can be determined. However, it should be remembered that the staunch anti-denominationalism of the Christian Church/Churches of Christ movement renders Miers unlikely to apply specific denominational labels to herself. Also, members of Stone-Campbell churches rarely refer to themselves as "Stone-Campbellites," and Miers is no exception. In a broader theological sense, Miers may be best classified as a conservative Evangelical or a "born-again Christian."
At the time that Miers was nominated to be a Supreme Court Justice, the biography of her pastor, Ron Key, had already been removed from the official website of the Valley View Christian Church. But previously, the following brief biography was featured on the website. From: "Ron Key - Senior Minister" page (http://vvcc.org/rongo.asp; as retrieved on 19 December 2004):
Ron Key is the Senior Minister at Valley View. He and his wife, Kaycia, have been at VVCC for 31 years. The next to youngest in a family of divorced parents, he was determined not to end up in ministry. God had another plan. While at Ozark Christian College for one year, he felt the call of God to specialized ministry and has been in ministry ever since. He became the youth minister at Valley View in 1972. In 1979, when the church was searching for a music minister, Ron took over those duties and the Holy Spirit blessed what he did in remarkable ways. That precipitated a change in direction for the church staff and resulted in the hiring of Weldon Gilmore as minister of Christian Education. A decision obviously blessed by God. Ron became the full-time Minister of Music until the retirement of Senior Pastor Emeritus, Dennis Slaughter, in 2001. Ron is the inspiration for many important ministries at the church. He has a passion for missions, and for encouraging and teaching the people of Valley View in order that they might seek and discover God's will for their lives.
Despite the fact that Miers left the Valley View Christian Church, her long association with that group clearly is indicative of her religious leanings and obviously had an immeasurable impact on her personal religious beliefs and practices. It thus makes sense to consider the teachings of that church in order to form a picture of Miers' beliefs.
On its official website, the Valley View Christian Church identifies itself in just one place (on a page for new members and visitors) as a "non-denominational fellowship." This might make that the church seem like it is a denomination unto itself, with its own idiosyncratic beliefs and practices. To a certain extent, this is a possibility, but the Valley View Christian Church is one of thousands of churches which comprise the North American Christian Convention (NACC), the official organizational convention for the "Christian Churches and Churches of Christ." The Valley View Christian Church has close ties to a number of other churches in the North American Christian Convention. The official webpage of the Valley View Christian Church even claims that its beliefs "are not innovative" and "fall well within the boundaries of evangelical theology." This further illustrates the fact that the Valley View Christian Church is not distinctive or theologically independent and isolated but is part of a larger religious body.
Ultimately, the leadership of the autonomously governed Valley View Christian Church, including principle preaching minister Barry McCarty, are responsible for determining the group's religious teachings and practices. But idiosyncratic tendencies often associated with megachurches and "non-denominational" churches (i.e., single-congregation denominations) have been tempered by the Valley View Christian Church's ties to the North American Christian Convention (the Christian Church and Churches of Christ) and other Evangelical organizations.
The "About Us" page of the official website of the North American Christian Convention (NACC), to which Miers' previous congregational home (Valley View Christian Church) belongs, specifically names the religious body it helps organize: the "Christian churches and churches of Christ." However, the NACC's self-description is also indicative of its aversion to "denominationalism" and the word "denomination." This official NACC page states (http://www.nacctheconnectingplace.org/DesktopDefault.aspx?tabindex=6&tabid=19; viewed 4 October 2005):
Each of the 6,500 churches in North America that identify themselves as part of the fellowship of "Christian churches and churches of Christ" is independent and autonomously governed. We have no official denominational organizational structure or polity. The only statement of faith of our 1.6 million members is the New Testament Scripture, and our only creed is Christ... The NACC began in 1927...From: Rachel Zoll (Associated Press), "Christians Worried About Miers' Beliefs", published 7 October 2005 (http://www.breitbart.com/news/2005/10/07/D8D3A81G1.html; viewed 19 October 2005):
If Harriet Miers is confirmed, evangelicals can finally claim one of their own on the U.S. Supreme Court. Yet the spiritual journey that led her to be born again and spend 25 years affiliated with a conservative church has not eased concerns among Christians about her views on abortion, gay rights and other key social issues...From: Patricia Zapor, "Contrary to reports, Harriet Miers was not raised as a Catholic", published 21 October 2005 by Catholic News Service (http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/0506006.htm; viewed 21 October 2005):
But members of her longtime congregation, Valley View Christian Church in Dallas, say the White House counsel's strong faith is clear from her dedication to their community.
Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht, Miers' friend for 30 years, said he brought her to the church, which he attended, when she expressed interest in "a deeper commitment to faith."
"She was just doing some soul searching," Hecht said. "She was just thinking about life. There wasn't any trauma or anything."
After a childhood attending both Roman Catholic and Protestant churches, she underwent a full-immersion baptism at Valley View in and later taught Sunday school classes.
Hecht said Miers has given the church more than the 10 percent tithe asked of congregants. She also served on the missions committee and took a deep interest in its programs in central India, according to minister Barry McCarty, inviting him and an Indian mission director to lunch at the White House last March.
Miers also served on the board of Pioneer Bible Translators, which has missions worldwide, according to Jack Straus, general counsel for the group and chairman of the Valley View church council.
About 150 of Valley View's 1,200 active members recently left to create their own congregation and Hecht says he and Miers are among those leaving. Valley View is changing its governance and worship to a more contemporary style under McCarty, who started in March 2004 and wants to attract young families. The breakaway group favors a more traditional approach, Hecht said.
When in Washington, Miers attends St. John's Episcopal Church near the White House, which President Bush also attends.
McCarty said Miers has not sent official word that she is leaving Valley View and he said she has many friends and supporters there. She most recently attended services with the congregation about a month ago. "Even after moving away to Washington, she was always very faithful in coming back," McCarty said...
Valley View is part of a movement known as Christian Churches and Churches of Christ. These conservative congregations grew from a 19th century reform movement that aimed to break down denominational barriers among Christians.
The churches tend to be more focused on evangelizing than social issues, although Valley View ministers have preached about the sanctity of marriage and against abortion from the pulpit, and the congregation has provided voter registration information to members.
"We probably aren't a real capital 'A' activist church," said Ron Key, a longtime Miers friend who recently left as Valley View minister and now leads Sunday services for the breakaway group. "That does not mean we don't believe strongly in pro-life. We take a public stance, but we believe this is sort of a grass roots, individual thing."
Valley View's mission statement says the church believes the Bible is the infallible word of God and salvation can be found only through Jesus. But, reflecting the movement's historic rejection of creeds, states "we try not to be dogmatic about matters on which believers hold divergent views."
Doug Foster, an Abilene Christian University historian who specializes in the independent Christian church movement [CC/CC], said it would be "highly unlikely" for a member of a congregation like Valley View to support abortion rights.
...while Miers served as the first woman president of her law firm, the Dallas Bar Association and Texas Bar Association, Valley View bars women from serving as church elders. Straus, who met Miers on church singles retreats, said he never heard her challenge that restriction.
Harriet Miers was not raised as a Catholic.From: Associated Press, "Miers attends breakaway church service", 10 October 2005 on CNN.com (http://www.cnn.com/2005/POLITICS/10/10/miers.church.ap/; viewed 17 October 2005):
Catholic Church records and the White House both refute what has become a boilerplate part of discussions about Miers, the White House general counsel and nominee for the Supreme Court.
News stories, commentaries and editorials nationwide have repeated the description that Miers was brought up Catholic but now attends an evangelical Protestant church.
However, according to White House spokeswoman Maria Tamburri, "Harriet Miers did not grow up Catholic."
When news reports first quoted the nominee's acquaintances as saying she had been raised a Catholic before joining an evangelical Protestant church in 1979, the editor of the Texas Catholic, newspaper of the Dallas Diocese, began checking records of baptisms and other sacraments.
"The Diocese of Dallas has no record of Harriet Miers or her immediate family ever having been a member of the Catholic Church," said Deacon Bronson Havard, spokesman for the Diocese of Dallas and editor of the newspaper. "We have checked all known sacramental records."
Miers' longtime friend, Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht, has been variously quoted as saying Miers was "raised Catholic," or that her family attended both Catholic and Protestant churches or that she "had a Catholic upbringing."
Since her nomination was announced Oct. 3, those comments have evolved into the widespread assumption that Miers was a baptized Catholic who left the church as a young adult to join Valley View Christian Church with a full-immersion baptism. Several local and syndicated newspaper columnists have raised theological concerns about the favorable spin some evangelicals have given to the idea that Miers' left the Catholic Church to "find Christ" as an evangelical Protestant.
Miers might well have occasionally attended Catholic churches as a child or young adult, but there is no evidence that she ever considered herself a Catholic.
Deacon Havard also said as an active Catholic and journalist for 35 years in Dallas he has never heard anyone refer to Miers as a Catholic or former Catholic until the current set of rumors.
He noted that a local Episcopal church has pews dedicated to her parents and that she worshipped there with her family on a recent trip to Dallas. Deacon Havard also said it was reported locally that Miers on the same Sunday attended a worship service by a group that split from Valley View Christian Church, which she and Hecht, among others, recently left.
The buzz among members of the breakaway evangelical group called Cornerstone Christian Church normally is focused on the congregation's future.From: T.R. Goldman, "What Would a 'Life Strictly Construed' Mean for the High Court?", published 17 October 2005 in Legal Times (http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1129280712014; viewed 17 October 2005):
On Sunday, the buzz centered instead on fellow church member and Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers -- and then she showed up.
Miers, 60, slipped quietly into services after attending a more publicized worship at an Episcopal church near downtown Dallas.
When Cornerstone minister Ron Key called attention to her presence, the 150 worshippers gave her a standing ovation, their claps echoing through the hotel ballroom that temporarily houses the church's weekly services.
Key asked his audience to understand "the crucible of pressure that Harriet is about to be exposed to," acknowledging her arrival after the service began. He called on members to pray for her every day.
The scene marked a stark contrast to the services Miers attended at the Episcopal church, where she wasn't mentioned during an hour-long service she attended with family members.
For years, Miers has been a member of Valley View Christian Church, but she and about 150 of its 1,200 active members have formed the separate congregation after a disagreement about worship styles.
Valley View has adopted a more contemporary flavor in its worship services, among other changes, as it tries to attract young families in the neighborhood where the church moved five years ago. The breakaway group favors a more traditional approach.
Miers is more often in Washington than in Dallas and travels for her White House job. Although she attends Cornerstone services when she visits Dallas, she is not considered a leader of the faction splitting off from Valley View.
Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht, who has dated Miers and has been frequently quoted on her views, also is part of the breakaway group and was the pianist Sunday.
"Nathan is going to write a new book about dating. I think Harriet's going to co-author it," Key said, drawing loud laughter from the congregation.
Miers sat by herself at the Cornerstone service. Earlier Sunday, she was surrounded by family, including her brother, at the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation.
At both services, Miers avoided reporters' questions and flashed a broad smile. "Nice to see you," she responded on her way into the Episcopal service when asked if she was surprised by negative reaction to her nomination by some prominent conservatives.
Cornerstone worshipper Ron MacFarlane, a Dallas lawyer, said he saw no obstacles to Miers' confirmation.
"She's an independent thinker," MacFarlane said. "Whatever you think about her religious beliefs or her faith, she can separate that" from her professional life.
At the same time, he said Miers' dedication to the church made it unsurprising that she made room in her schedule for the Cornerstone service.
"Her faith is, I think, her biggest priority," MacFarlane said. "Today's just a demonstration of it."
Key included Miers in the congregation's prayers and mentioned members of Congress, asking God to "guide their questions and their inquiries." He did not use her name during his sermon.
After both services, she greeted friends and worshippers with hugs and smiles.
Miers has attended services before at the Church of the Incarnation, and several people in her family are members, according to White House officials. When in Washington, she attends St. John's Episcopal Church near the White House, which Bush also attends.
As a child, Miers attended Roman Catholic and Protestant churches. In 1979, she was baptized at Valley View, and she later taught Sunday school classes there.
Valley View is part of a movement known as Christian Churches and Churches of Christ. These conservative congregations grew from a reform movement in the 19th century that aimed to break down denominational barriers among Christians.
..."Harriet's is a life that adheres to fundamental tenets of good behavior and right conduct, whether drawn from the Bible or the rules of work," says Stuart Bowen, who worked directly under Miers as deputy staff secretary at the White House for almost two years... Her minister, the Rev. Ron Key, who has known Miers since the late 1970s, when she was baptized and joined the Valley View Christian Church, agrees.From: Charlie Savage, "President's pick has leaned left and right", in The Boston Globe, 4 October 2005 (http://www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2005/10/04/presidents_pick_has_leaned_left_and_right/; viewed 4 October 2005):
"The way Harriet would be [on the Court], she would try to interpret the Constitution according to [the idea that] it says what it means and means what it says," Key says. "And I assume that's how she interprets the Bible. I would imagine she would think that."
While the religious beliefs of a Court nominee aren't normally the stuff of intense scrutiny, President George W. Bush linked Miers' religion and her jurisprudence last week. "People are interested to know why I picked Harriet Miers," he told reporters. "They want to know as much as they possibly can before they form opinions. And part of Harriet Miers' life is her religion."
...Given her personality, Miers' decision to attend the Valley View Christian Church, which she joined in 1979 while in her mid-30s, can be viewed as the result of a typically deliberative process.
Valley View is technically nondenominational, but that's because it is a so-called independent Christian church [i.e., part of the "Independent Christian Churches and Churches of Christ" group] and is not beholden to a governing body. Its theological doctrines, however, are closely related to two American denominations, the slightly more conservative Church of Christ and the more liberal Disciples of Christ, both of which trace their roots to just after the Revolutionary War. (Miers recently joined a group of some 200 people who left Valley View to start another independent Christian church in North Dallas known as Cornerstone Christian Church, where Key is now preaching.)
The original idea behind the formation of the movement, explains Douglas Foster, a professor of church history at Abilene Christian University, was to bring about a unity of Christians from the patchwork of denominations that had sprung up in Catholicism and Protestantism. In other words, "a restoration of the ancient Gospel and order of things" as the movement's two founders, Barton W. Stone and Alexander Campbell, envisioned it.
Such a restoration would bring back the original Christian church, and do so by using the text of the New Testament as its guide -- an idea very much akin to a strict constructionist reading of the Constitution. "It was a post-Revolutionary idea, based on an Enlightenment assumption about the rationality of man, using the Bible as a book of facts and a book of data," Foster explains.
The irony was that the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement soon developed its own schisms, which continue to this day. There remain similarities; all three groups celebrate Communion every week, something that also occurs at St. John's Episcopal Church in Northwest Washington, where Miers often attends with Bush. And because of their emphasis on Scriptures, the Church of Christ, the independent Christian churches, and the Disciples of Christ are not overtly political -- at least not by design.
"Our principal mission is to teach the Bible," explains Valley View Christian's the Rev. Barry McCarty. "And in teaching the Bible, we address moral issues. We may even touch on relevant modern ethical issues like abortion, but we're not trying to." Although McCarty says a majority of his church members "have a pro-life view and practice that," he adds, "we don't organize busloads of people for [anti-abortion] rallies."
In Washington, where religious faith is often confined to quiet Sunday-morning gatherings, it can be easy to stereotype Miers as an evangelical zealot. Unlike those who remain with the religion into which they were born, Miers had a conversion experience as an adult, and was baptized in a large cistern that sits high above the Valley View altar.
It was a time in Miers' life when her professional accomplishments were starting to mount. She had made partner at her law firm, then known as Locke Purnell Rain & Harrell, in 1978. But Miers, who was raised Catholic, was looking for a more profound experience. It's a sentiment that McCarty has seen often, although he wasn't at Valley View when Miers joined. "As people achieve their goals, they've tasted success, but they're still looking for significance," he notes.
Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht, Miers' longtime friend and a member of Valley View when she converted, explains it this way: "There can be a kind of anonymity in the Catholic Church. There shouldn't be, but it's the same problem any church can have. Harriet was looking for a little more incentive to make it personal; she was looking for a deeper commitment. "Church should not be something you do on Saturday night or Sunday morning," he continues. "It shouldn't just be a checklist item."
Evangelical churches all follow a few basic tenets: that Jesus is the only way to salvation, that the Bible is the authoritative word of God, that nonbelievers must be proselytized, and that a personal conversion must occur. But though they share basic tenets of faith, evangelical churches are not monolithic, says John Green, a professor at the University of Akron who studies evangelism.
"The Bush administration is assuming that Harriet Miers' religious background as an evangelical will persuade many evangelicals to support her nomination. But that's too simple an argument," says Green. "They are a fairly diverse group who recognize that even among their own ranks there are different views on political issues, let alone the great social issue of the day."
One common thread, adds Green, is that evangelicals "tend to regard religion as very important in their life and that the demands of their faith are frequently on their mind." He notes that "this psychological state does create a distinctiveness, and the people who hold these beliefs really are different."
...For Brady Sparks, a Dallas lawyer and evangelical Presbyterian who's known Miers for 30 years, the notion that her legal views would be influenced by her religious beliefs is laughable... Miers, says Sparks, has spent her life following the law. "How do you function in a secular society if you take the Bible at its word? By respecting and believing, and, in Harriet's case, by devoting your life to maintaining the rule of law. What that means for her is not that much different from the founding fathers."
Reached by phone, Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht, a longtime close friend of Miers, said she has been an active member of the evangelical Valley View Christian Church in Dallas, where he has been an elder, for 25 years. Miers, he said, donates at least 10 percent of her income to the church, which he said disapproves of "gay lifestyle" and abortion.From: Jim, "Miers' church track record", posted 3 October 2005 on "The Culture Beat" blog website (http://www.theculturebeat.com/?p=94; viewed 17 October 2005):
Her views on abortion, Hecht said, "are consistent with the church's."
But, Hecht added, whether that means Miers would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade is another matter: "You take an oath and can't just do whatever you want to do."
The initial New York Times spin [link to: Timothy Williams, "Bush Names Counsel as Choice for Supreme Court", 3 October 2005] on Harriet Miers, President Bush's nominee to fill Sandra Day O'Connor's slot on the Supreme Court, is that she doesn't have a judicial track record. She does have another record, however, as "an outstanding Christian woman," as Dr. Barry McCarty, her pastor at Valley View Christian Church in Dallas, told Christian Standard magazine.From: Jack Straus Jr., "Inside the Real West Wing," published 4 November 2001 in Christian Standard, the official national magazine of the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ (http://www.christianstandard.com/articledisplay.asp?id=134; viewed 17 October 2005):
Valley View is part of that loosely organized group of congregations known collectively as Christian Churches and Churches of Christ, which happens to be my own church background. Along with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the Churches of Christ (distinguished by their lack of musical instruments in worship), the "4 C's" -- pardon the jargon -- are part of the so-called Stone-Campbell tradition. The CC/CC's theologically fall somewhere between the typically liberal, mainstream Disciples and the typically very conservative "a capella" or "non-instrumental" Churches of Christ. If you know anything about those groups, you know that leaves a lot of room in the middle, and while members of CC/CCs tend to skew conservative in their beliefs and politics, they do manage to take full advantage of the wide open theological spaces. (Official non-official motto: "We're not a denomination," which is technically true.) So people searching for clues about where Miers may stand on particular issues by way of her church affiliation need to do some digging. They're not going to find any kind of widespread denominational statements or resolutions. Searchers will need to look locally for clues -- and there's no guarantee they'll find much there either.
You can find a profile of Miers published four years ago in the Christian Standard, a national magazine that serves the "brotherhood" (more jargon) of CC/CCs.
The following article about Harriet Miers originally appeared in the November 4, 2001, issue of CHRISTIAN STANDARD under the headline, "Inside the Real West Wing." It was written by Jack Straus Jr., an attorney in Dallas, Texas, and an elder at Valley View Christian Church.From: Staff, "ONLINE EXTRA: Bush Nominates Miers to Serve on Supreme Court", published 9 October 2005 in Christian Standard, the official national magazine of the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ (http://www.christianstandard.com/articledisplay.asp?id=134; viewed 17 October 2005):
There aren't any Emmys for service in the real White House. The hours are long, the work is demanding, and the responsibilities are enormous. But there are those who heed the call to duty and service. One of them who went to Washington in January with President George W. Bush is Harriet Miers, a member of Valley View Christian Church in Dallas, Texas.
Miers has been a loyal and faithful member of VVCC for years. She has had a visible place of service both in and out of church. Her long list of activities include membership on Dallas City Council and becoming the first woman president of both the Dallas Bar Association and the State Bar of Texas. Now she has taken on a new role as staff secretary to President Bush.
Although Miers is unquestionably one of the president's top aides, she is not one of the more visible ones. But that isn't her role. It's not her job to be a spokesperson on policy issues or a spokesperson for the White House, thus, you don't see her on the evening news or read much about her in the press. Her primary responsibility is to manage the document flow to and from the oval office. Basically, she reads everything that goes to the president...
Miers is a woman of faith with strong Christian beliefs. To her, it has been "wonderful to be working for a president who is a believer and who acts on his faith." The president talks about his faith often, and it is important to him. It also is important to Miers. She brings her faith to bear on everything she does. It's not only a part of how she views issues, it also affects her willingness to serve and her desire to do well. She readily acknowledges that she can't do anything without the grace of God...
Service, responsibility, duty, sacrifice, and faith are words integral to understanding Harriet Miers and her colleagues. She describes the Bush team as "an administration where faith is important. Prayers count. We all value prayers."...
A longtime member of Valley View Christian Church in Dallas, Texas, has been nominated to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.From: Dave Montgomery (Knight Ridder Newspapers), "Miers' ties to conservative church may offer insights" in The Mercury News, 4 October 2005 (http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/politics/12817347.htm; viewed 4 October 2005):
Harriet Miers, 60, was nominated by President Bush to replace outgoing Justice Sandra Day O'Connor during an Oval Office ceremony this morning (Monday, October 3).
"Harriet is just an outstanding Christian woman," said Barry McCarty, preaching minister with Valley View Christian Church. "She is very well respected in the city of Dallas and well loved by the people in our church."
...Miers has served at the White House since President Bush took office in 2001, first as staff secretary -- in charge of reading every piece of paper that crossed the president's desk -- and then as White House counsel, a position to which she was appointed in 2004...
At Valley View, Miers served on the Missions Committee and in the children's ministry.
McCarty said Miers's continuing concern for world missions was evident this spring. McCarty serves on the board of Central India Christian Mission, which was meeting in Washington, D.C., in March. Miers knew of the meeting, and hosted McCarty and missionary Ajai Lall for lunch at the White House.
Miers worships at Valley View on those infrequent weekends when she is in Dallas, McCarty said. She is at ease interacting with all members of the congregation.
"Unless you knew who she was, you would have no idea you were looking at one of the most powerful women in the country," McCarty said.
McCarty said many in Dallas knew Miers' appointment to a position on the Supreme Court was a possibility, and that his anticipation grew when he learned the president would announce his choice this morning...
Late Sunday night, shortly after President Bush asked her to be his nominee to the Supreme Court, Harriet Miers called her longtime Dallas minister and his wife and - without revealing why - asked for their prayers to give her "grace under pressure."From: Marvin Olasky, "Harriet Miers -- her pastor's view" on "World Magazine Blog" ("WorldViews: Daily News / Christian Views") blog website, 3 October 2005 (http://www.worldmagblog.com/blog/archives/018821.html; viewed 4 October 2005):
That call to the Rev. Ron and Kaycia Key illustrates the depth of Miers' spirituality and years of devoted worship at a conservative nondenominational Christian church that preaches against abortions and gay marriages.
Though Miers is reticent to reveal her views, her two-decade-long membership in the Valley View Christian Church suggests how she might stand on hot-button social issues regarded as top priorities to social conservatives who form a cornerstone of Bush's support.
"She hasn't said a lot, but you don't go to a church for 25 years if you're not comfortable with what they think," said Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht of Austin, Texas, a church member who says he's shared a "semi-romantic" friendship with Miers for more than 30 years. "I'm sure she's consistent with the church's position."
...Friends and family say there's no ambiguity about Miers' Christian faith.
"It's certainly a strong force in her daily life," said Dallas state appeals Judge Elizabeth Lang-Miers, who's married to Miers' brother, Jeb, a Dallas physician.
As one of five children, Miers attended Presbyterian and Episcopalian churches while growing up but began attending Valley View in the early 1980s after becoming a lawyer in the blue-chip Dallas law firm now known as Locke Liddell & Sapp. Hecht, whom she helped bring into the law firm, was an organist at the church and took her to her first service, Ron Key recalled.
The North Dallas church is one of about 1,100 churches attached to the North American Christian Convention [i.e., the Stone-Campbellite religious body known as the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ].
The church has suffered a split in recent months, with Key leading a breakaway congregation of about 200 members who now meet at a Doubletree Hotel in suburban Dallas. Other members have remained at the original church under the Rev. Barry McCarty.
McCarty couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday. Key said Miers has remained a staunch member of the church throughout her five years in Washington and attended a service at the hotel several weeks ago. During a recent return trip to Dallas to visit her mother, she cradled a cell phone in the church parking lot, later explaining that she'd been on the phone with John G. Roberts Jr., now the U.S. Supreme Court's chief justice.
Key said Miers has served as the church's legal counsel. While serving on the city council, she urged the congregation to play an active role in helping impoverished residents in predominantly black South Dallas. She also was an adult sponsor of the Space Cubs, a youth ministry for first-, second- and third-graders.
"Her faith just grew and blossomed," Key said. "One of the things I admire about Harriet is she walks her faith in everyday life."
Kaycia Key said Miers called their house about 9:30 p.m. (Central time) Sunday. That was after Bush had invited Miers to a White House dinner and offered her the Supreme Court nomination, the Keys learned the following day.
"She just asked us to pray for her," Kaycia Key said. When the preacher's wife tried to find out why, she said, Miers responded: "You know I can't tell you that."
I talked yesterday with Miers' pastor, Ron Key, who for 33 years (until a few weeks ago) was pastor of Valley View Christian Church in Dallas. "She started coming to church in 1980. She helped out with kids, made coffee, furnished donuts, served on missions committee. She worked out her faith in practical, behind-the-scenes ways. She doesn't draw attention to herself, she's humble, self-effacing." Key has still seen her in recent years because "her mother is 93. Harriet tries to get home as much as she can." When Key and Miers met in 1980, "I don't know how strong her faith was at that time. She came to a place where she totally committed her life to Jesus. She had gone to church before, but when she came to our church it became more serious to her.... Our church is strong for life, but Harriet and I have not had any conversations on that . . . We believe in the biblical approach to marriage."From: Michael Grunwald, Jo Becker and John Pomfret, "The Nominee's Private Life: Strong Grounding in the Church Could Be a Clue to Miers's Priorities", in The Washington Post, page A01, 5 October 2005 (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/10/04/AR2005100401765.html; viewed 5 October 2005):
One evening in the 1980s, several years after Harriet Miers dedicated her life to Jesus Christ, she attended a lecture at her Dallas evangelical church with Nathan Hecht, a colleague at her law firm and her on-again, off-again boyfriend. The speaker was Paul Brand, a surgeon and the author of "Fearfully and Wonderfully Made," a best-selling exploration of God and the human body.From: Sam Hodges, "Miers would be court's first evangelical", in The Dallas Morning News, 4 October 2005 (http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/politics/national/stories/100505dnrelchurch.126e80d1.html; viewed 4 October 2005)
When the lecture was over, Miers said words Hecht had never heard from her before. "I'm convinced that life begins at conception," Hecht recalled her saying. According to Hecht, now a Texas Supreme Court justice, Miers has believed ever since that abortion is "taking a life."
Harriet Miers was baptized as an adult in a Dallas church where, one pastor says, "the Judeo-Christian perspective on the sanctity of life" is taught.
"I know she is pro-life," said Hecht, one of the most conservative judges in Texas. "She thinks that after conception, it's not a balancing act -- or if it is, it's a balancing of two equal lives."
Hecht and other confidants of Miers all pledge that if the Senate confirms her nomination to the Supreme Court, her judicial values will be guided by the law and the Constitution. But they say her personal values have been shaped by her abiding faith in Jesus, and by her membership in the massive red-brick Valley View Christian Church, where she was baptized as an adult, served on the missions committee and taught religious classes. At Valley View, pastors preach that abortion is murder, that the Bible is the literal word of God and that homosexuality is a sin -- although they also preach that God loves everybody...
Hecht suggested that it would be difficult to attend Valley View regularly and support gay rights. At the same time, he said, Miers's faith made her more sympathetic to the struggles of others, and her duties as an at-large City Council member transcended her personal views.
"She represented those people, and she wanted to represent the whole city," Hecht said. "It doesn't mean that you approve of their lifestyle."
...Hecht remembers that when Miers made partner at their law firm, the first woman ever to do so, she began to question what life was all about. He said they would often put their feet up and trade Big Questions: Is there a God? Who is He? What difference does it make? Miers had attended Episcopalian and Presbyterian churches as a girl, and her mother was religious, but Miers told Hecht she wanted a "deeper faith." Hecht believes she may have supported abortion rights at the time, although he said she had not thought about it much.
"Well, let's go to my church," Hecht told her.
That was Valley View, where Hecht played the organ and taught Sunday school. It was a church, pastor Ron Key said, that believed in "the Judeo-Christian perspective on the sanctity of life" and "the Christian perspective on marriage." There are antiabortion pamphlets inside the church and literature opposing premarital sex. Key and his wife, Kaycia, said they never asked Miers what she thought about those issues, because they never thought they had to.
"We've known Harriet for 30 years and we've never had any reason to discuss these hot topics," Kaycia Key said. "But I can say one thing: She's a totally committed Christian."
...In 1993, when Miers was the president of the Texas bar, she led a challenge to the American Bar Association's support for abortion rights. Some of her friends say she just thought it was inappropriate for the group to take a stand on a moral issue, but others point out that an abortion rights supporter probably would not have challenged the status quo.
"She didn't have to do that," Kinkeade said. "She was following her beliefs."
Those beliefs were forged at Valley View, but Miers is breaking away from the church where she embraced Jesus. In recent years, church elders have moved to cut back on missionary work, sparking a split this summer among the parishioners. Key is forming a church that plans to donate half its revenues to mission work, and Miers plans to join him.
"These days so many of the churches have become Christian country clubs," Key said. "They are more about making you feel good about yourself than making you grow. Some of us, including Harriet, were uncomfortable with all this."
But if Miers is leaving her church, the church is not leaving her. Kaycia Key said she expects to see the next Supreme Court justice in the pews, singing enthusiastically, if not skillfully. "Let's just say she makes a joyful noise unto the Lord," Key said. "She doesn't hesitate to sing out."
For 26 years, Harriet Miers has belonged to an evangelical North Dallas church that is steadfastly opposed to abortion and gay marriage and takes other conservative positions on controversial social issues.From: Steven Ertelt, "Harriet Miers Attends Pro-Life Church, Pastor Opposes Abortion", on LifeNews.com, 4 October 2005 (http://www.lifenews.com/nat1667.html; viewed 4 October 2005):
Should she be confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court, court historians say, Ms. Miers would be the only justice with an evangelical background.
But those close to her say it's a mistake to assume that her affiliation with Valley View Christian Church would dictate how she would decide cases - including cases her church cares deeply about.
"You can't extrapolate from a person's personal views to how they're going to judge a case," said Nathan Hecht, a Texas Supreme Court justice who first brought Ms. Miers to Valley View, his church for many years. "They don't determine what the law is."
The White House said President Bush did not consider Ms. Miers' personal ideology or religious beliefs in nominating her to succeed Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who is retiring...
Ms. Miers grew up in Dallas attending Catholic and Protestant churches, said her sister-in-law Elizabeth Lang-Miers, a state appellate judge.
Ms. Miers' mother "imbued" her children with a strong sense of Christian faith, said Ms. Lang-Miers, but she added that she wasn't sure whether Ms. Miers considered herself Catholic or Protestant growing up.
"My impression at the time and since was that she considered herself, if anything, Catholic. But she really didn't consider it very much," said Justice Hecht.
In the late 1970s, Justice Hecht recalled, he and Ms. Miers were in the same Dallas law firm and would have late-night discussions at work about faith.
"We would talk about it, and over the course of some months, I suggested she ought to think about a more serious commitment. She said she'd let me know.
"One day she came out of the office and said that's what she was going to do. I said, 'So now what?' She said, 'I need to find a good church to go to.' I said, 'Well, you ought to come to mine.' "
Ms. Miers did indeed join Justice Hecht - who describes their long relationship as that of two "good, close friends" - in attending Valley View Christian. In 1979, she joined the church and underwent a full-immersion baptism there.
Asked whether he thought she considered herself a born-again Christian, based on her baptism, Justice Hecht said, "absolutely."
The church, located today on Marsh Lane north of Trinity Mills Road, is one of about 5,500 congregations nationwide that are proudly nondenominational and work together to support Christian colleges and missions.
These churches describe themselves as evangelical.
"That'll tell you a lot theologically," said Barry Hankins, an associate professor of history and church-state studies at Baylor University. "It'll tell you they affirm the authority of Scripture and they affirm a conversion experience followed by baptism."
Indeed, the "What We Believe" section of Valley View's Web site (www.vvcc.org) speaks of the Bible as "the only infallible, inspired, authoritative Word of God."
Dr. Hankins said Christian churches such as Valley View have tended to be less politically active than many evangelical churches. Justice Hecht agreed that that had been the case at Valley View.
"They are concerned, but the thought in the past has always been that the emphasis of the church should be on its primary mission" - conversion and ministering to believers.
"That said, they have had pro-life literature in the church building and pro-life speakers over the years," he said.
Ron Key, a former minister at the church, said Valley View has supported Christian ministries that try to persuade unwed mothers to consider adoption over abortion.
The church has opposed gay marriage and generally supported prayer in public schools, he added. He recalled no particular position on stem cell research.
Ms. Miers quickly became active at Valley View in a low-key way, supporting missions programs and working on Sunday nights with the "Whirly Birds" program for first- through third- graders.
"And in adult Sunday school, she was the one who would come early and make the coffee and then clean up afterward," said Vickie Wilson, the church office manager and a longtime member.
Justice Hecht described Valley View - which was founded in 1964 and now has about 1,400 members - as "crucial" to Ms. Miers. She has attended fairly regularly in recent years, even while she has been working in the White House, most recently as counsel to the president.
But Justice Hecht also said that both he and Ms. Miers have recently left the church, joining about 200 others who are forming another congregation after disputes about staffing, governance and worship style since the arrival last year of Barry McCarty as "preaching minister."
Ms. Miers attended a Sunday gathering of the disaffected group two weekends ago, said Mr. Key. He left the church staff this summer after more than 30 years and has been preaching to the as-yet-unnamed second congregation.
Ms. Wilson, the Valley View office manager, acknowledged that the split is painful for the church. "We're in transition," she said.
She noted that Ms. Miers attended Valley View while visiting a few weeks ago. "She's still on the membership rolls here," Ms. Wilson said.
But Justice Hecht, who has resigned as a church elder, maintained that Ms. Miers was joining him in leaving the church.
Mr. Key said Ms. Miers called him and his wife, Kaycia, on the night before Monday's announcement that she would be the high court nominee.
"She simply asked for us to pray for her. My wife asked, 'Could you tell us why?' She said, 'You know me better than that.' We said, 'OK, we'll pray for you.' "
When a Supreme Court nominee doesn't have a black and white record on abortion, groups on both sides of the abortion debate look for nuances that could show a glimpse of how the nominee would rule on the contentious issue. Pro-life advocates may have found one on Harriet Miers with regard to the pro-life evangelical church she attends. Miers is a longtime member of Valley View Christian Church in Dallas, an evangelical church where she has served on the missions board for 10 years and taught Sunday school.From: David Benzion, "Harriet Miers' pastor interviewed on KSEV", in Lone Star Times, 3 October 2005 (http://lonestartimes.com/2005/10/03/harriet-miers-pastor-will-join-dan-patrick-at-5pm-for-live-interview-wife-has-been-close-friend-of-scotus-nominee-since-1980-listen-live-here-at-wwwlonestartimescom/; viewed 4 October 2005):
Rev. Barry McCarty, a pastor for the congregation for 25 years, has been very outspoken in his views against abortion.
"The right-to-life principle is the cornerstone of American law," he wrote in a January article in The Lookout, a magazine that is a member of the Evangelical Press Association, a Christian publication trade group.
"The logic of abortion is not only wrong, it has put American culture on a dangerous moral slope," McCarty added.
Kevin McCullough, a pro-life advocate and radio talk show host, said he had a lengthy interview with another Valley View pastor, Ron Key, about Miers and came away impressed with her pro-life credentials and is ready to support her.
"I am now ready to fully support Miers," McCullough said. "She stands for the protection of life -- born and pre-born."
...Pro-life Texas Supreme Court Judge Nathan Hecht is an elder at the church and also says Miers is pro-life.
On abortion, he told World Magazine, "her personal views are consistent with that of evangelical Christians... You can tell a lot about her from her decade of service in a conservative church."
LoneStarTimes.com has learned that Pastor Ron Key of the Valley View Christian Church in Dallas will be joining KSEV host Dan Patrick at 5 p.m. Central to discuss his congregation's most famous member - Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers.From: Jonathan Larsen, "Harriet Miers Makes History -- And Perfect Sense", on "Petty Larseny" blog website, posted 5 October 2005 (http://petty-larseny.blogspot.com/2005/10/harriet-miers-makes-history-and.html; viewed 5 October 2005):
Pastor Key and his wife have known Ms. Miers since 1980, and in fact grew so close that Mrs. Key accompanied Miers to Washington D.C. at the start of the first Bush administration to assist in finding and setting up an apartment.
Few people know Harriet Miers better, or can speak more directly to concerns among conservatives nationally regarding her personal, professional, and conservative credentials.
Miers will be the first born-again Christian to sit on the Supreme Court. (I should qualify that I haven't been able to rule out with metaphysical certitude the possibility that some other Supreme Court justice out there also considered himself born-again. But I turned up not a single reference in fairly thorough Nexis and Google searches. Adherents.com breaks down judicial denominations here with no born-again red flags immediately apparent. And no Supreme Court judges show up on Wikipedia's list of born-again political leaders. I also bounced this question off one TV news outfit's well-regarded legal analyst, who also couldn't think of one. If there has been a born-again Christian Supreme Court judge, it would appear that he kept his religious feelings out of his public work, which is precisely the antithesis of the defining characteristic of modern-day born-againism.)From: Jody Brown, Allie Martin, Bill Fancher, and Ed Thomas, "Confusion Abounds in Pro-Family Camps Following Bush's SCOTUS Nomination", Agape Press, 4 October 2005 (http://headlines.agapepress.org/archive/10/42005a.asp; viewed 4 October 2005):
According to a report by WorldNetDaily, conservatives and family advocates may have something to worry about concerning the nomination of White House counsel Harriett Miers to the Supreme Court. WND says it has learned the native Texan is on record as being in support of the establishment of the International Criminal Court, homosexual adoptions, and women in combat. These findings, notes the Internet news service, are "unlikely to ease the concerns of those who were expecting Bush to fulfill his promise to name a justice in the mold of Clarence Thomas or Antonin Scalia" -- both regarded as solid conservatives on the high court.From: Jane Norman and Frank Santiago, "Some Iowans surprised by Bush's Supreme Court choice: Lawyers and leaders see Harriet Miers' lack of judicial experience as both a drawback and an asset", in Des Moines Register, 4 October 2005 (http://desmoinesregister.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20051004/NEWS09/510040387/1001/NEWS05; viewed 4 October 2005):
At the same time, LifeNews.com -- a pro-life Internet website -- is reporting that Miers is a longtime member of Valley View Christian Church, an evangelical church in Dallas, where she has been a Sunday school teacher as well as a member of the missions board for ten years. Her pastor, says the report, is a staunch pro-life supporter; and another Valley View pastor -- when interviewed about Miers -- impressed a pro-life radio talk-show host to cause that radio personality to state for the record that the court nominee "stands for the protection of life -- born and pre-born .... and she stands for the authority of the text of the Constitution."
...James Dobson of Focus on the Family [a conservative Evangelical group]... has noted positive comments from Mier's political colleagues in Texas and her fellow church members. So he accepts her characterization as a political conservative and evangelical Christian -- for now.
Chuck Hurley, president of the Iowa Family Policy Center in Des Moines, said he knows several people who attend church with Miers at Valley View Christian Church in the Dallas area.From: Will Malven, "Betrayal: President Bush Ducks Confrontation in Selecting Miers", Men's News Daily, 4 October 2005 (http://mensnewsdaily.com/blog/malven/2005/10/betrayal-president-bush-ducks.html; viewed 4 October 2005):
"I'm going to call them and find out what I can," he said. "She's very active in the church, and that's a good sign, but I don't think it's going to be a slam-dunk."
Miers, 59, may very well turn out to be a great Supreme Court Justice, Those at World View [http://www.worldmagblog.com] appear to think so, reporting the following:Along with straight news articles, opinion columnists immediately began writing about Miers' nomination. Numerous columns, including popular syndicated liberal columnist Molly Ivins, offered their opinions not only about Miers, but also about the religious teachings of her church. From: Molly Ivins, "The unification of church and state: Bush nominee Miers is Texas conservative, fundamentalist Christian", 4 October 2005 (http://www.workingforchange.com/article.cfm?ItemID=19701; viewed 4 October 2005):
"Nathan Hecht, the Texas Supreme Court justice who is a prolife hero [and Meirs are]...'very close friends. We dated some. The relationship has been close: Platonic...' Miers has been a member of Valley View Christian Church in Dallas for 25 years, where Hecht has been an elder... a 'conservative evangelical church... in the vernacular, fundamentalist'... On abortion, choosing his words carefully... 'her personal views are consistent with that of evangelical Christians... Hecht says' She's an originalist-that's the way she takes the Bible,' and that's her approach to the Constitution as well-'Originalist-it means what it says.' He also says that she is not a social butterfly who will be swayed by the Washington dinner table conversation: '...She's not on the social circuit.'...She tithes, gave a full tithe to the church... Hecht and Miers 'went to two or three prolife dinners in the late 80's or early 90's...
Miers, like Bush himself, is classic Texas conservative Establishment, with the addition of Christian fundamentalism. What I mean by fundamentalist is one who believes in both biblical inerrancy and salvation by faith alone. [This is Molly Ivins' own interpretation of what constitutes "Christian fundamentalism."]NOTE: This page features information about Valley View Christian Church. This type of information goes beyond what is typically done in this religious/spiritual biography section, which is to simply provide biographical information about a person's religious affiliation, religious beliefs and relationship to their church, without non-biographical data about the church in general. This extra information is here because the Valley View Christian Church, to which Miers belongs, is largely unknown to most readers, whereas the religious denominations to which other Justices belong (e.g., Catholic, Episcopalian, etc.) are already familiar.
She is enrolled in the Valley View Christian Church of Dallas, which she attended for at least 20 years before moving to Washington five years ago. Among that church's other members is Nathan Hecht of the Texas Supreme Court, considered second only to Priscilla Owen as that court's most adamant anti-abortion judge.
According to Miers' friends, she was pro-choice when a young woman, but later changed her mind as a result of a Christian experience of some kind. Those who spoke of this did not know her well enough to say whether it had been a born-again experience or simply a different understanding of theology.
...She ran for city council in 1989 as a moderate, but struggled during her interview with the lesbian/gay coalition. (At the time, it would have been considered progressive to even show up.) The Dallas Police Department did not then hire gays or lesbians, and when asked about the policy, Miers replied the department should hire the best-qualified people, the classic political sidestep answer.
When pressed, she said she did believe one should be able to legally discriminate against gays, and it is the recollection of two of the organization's officers that the response involved her religious beliefs.
Miers' church states on its website that it believes in biblical inerrancy, full immersion baptism, original sin and salvation dependent entirely upon accepting Jesus Christ. Everyone else is going to hell.
From: "Welcome Center" page on the official Valley View Christian Church website (http://www.vvcc.org/visitorsgo.asp; viewed 4 October 2005):
Valley View Christian Church is a non-denominational fellowship of people seeking to discover and do God's will. Through our search, we have discovered that God is very busy! He is at work all across our world and in your life as well. He is especially at work in His church, and we are a part of that never-ending work.
We believe that when we have been obedient to Him in confession, repentance, and baptism, we become ministers of His church. Valley View's member/ministers have been led to a variety of ministries through discovering His will. As a result,Valley View Christian Church is not a Sunday morning-only church. Every day you will find people involved in God's work in and around the buildings at Marsh and Old Mill as well as throughout the metroplex [i.e., the Dallas-Fort Worth cosmopolitan area]. If you are ever in the Dallas area, please drop by. And until we can meet face to face, let us know if you have any questions or prayer needs. We want to join you in your search for significance and purpose.
"About Us"/"Contacts"/"Office Connections" page on the official Valley View Christian Church website (http://www.vvcc.org/aboutus.asp; viewed 4 October 2005):
In the early sixties, there arose a need for a simple New Testament Church in North Dallas. With little money and no assets, Valley View Christian Church was born. This new congregation met in many temporary places in the beginning - schools, homes, dance studios - and were able to seek God and worship Him the way they felt they should.Here is a longer version of the history of the Valley View Christian Church. From: "History of Valley View Christian Church", on the official Valley View Christian Church website (http://vvcc.churchsites.com/historygo.asp; viewed 5 October 2005):
Several years later, God led the leadership of this young church to a small piece of property at the corner of Valley View and Marsh and the first permanent location was purchased. In the seventies, the church grew rapidly and many facilities were built on this property. VVCC soon outgrew the land at Valley View and Marsh and purchased the property at Old Mill and Marsh. The work God has given continues.
From the very beginning VVCC has been a church on a mission. The outreach of the church quickly spread around the world. It was decided that missions and missionaries would be top priority. Even though the needs of this growing church were many and expensive, VVCC continued to support the missions it had established while growing funds for new missions. God honored that vision in a powerful way.
Valley View continues to place missions as a top priority, and armed with facilities conducive to growth, the future is bright and exciting.
The first meeting of "Northwest Christian Church," occurred at Shockey Kindergarten and School on Royal Lane near Webb Chapel Road on November 8, 1964. This new congregation was founded, in part, by Kenneth and Loydeen Fadely, who had moved to this part of Dallas from Oklahoma and felt there was a need for an evangelical Christian church in North Dallas. Vernon Newland, the recent President of Dallas Christian College, was the church's first preacher. Thirty-one people attended the first service and 18 placed membership.The links page on the official Valley View Christian Church website (http://www.vvcc.org/coollinks.asp; viewed 4 October 2005) has links to the following Stone-Campbell/Evangelical colleges and universities:
Early the next year, Paul Platt became the first part-time minister of "Northwest Christian Church." He was followed, in December, by Gene Bunch who stayed until April of 1966. By then, the young church had seen its first baptism (Monte McCoy in July of 1965) and had purchased land at the intersection of Valley View and Marsh Lanes. The congregation changed its name to Valley View Christian Church and began to meet at Dallas Christian College, which had just moved to Farmers Branch from downtown Dallas.
In June of 1966, Val J. McCord was hired as the first full-time minister. Kenneth Fadely, the church's tresurer, proposed an annual budget of $10,182. The next few years were filled with "firsts." In November of that year, VVCC held it's first revival with evangelist, R.C. McCord of Crowell, Texas and Tom Carey as the worship leader. The first all-church picnic was held at Sandy Lake Park in May of 1967. On February 28, 1968, the first fellowship dinner was held in the home of George Y. McCoy.
In January of 1968, the new permanent home of Valley View Christian Church was dedicated. It included a sanctuary that could hold 200 people, a kitchen and fellowship hall, seven classrooms, a nursery, pastor's study, church office, baptistry, and dressing rooms. The weekly attendance by 1969 averaged 109 people.
This produced another set of "firsts." The first Vacation Bible School occurred in June of 1969 under the leadership of Sally Hamner. About 100 children each day were involved. Bill and Shirley Wallace were the first couple married at VVCC the same month. In October of that year, the Valley View youth worked at Colegio Biblico in Eagle Pass, Texas for the first time. In December of that year, the first Christmas Cantata was held.
About that time, Marion Conover became the interim minister of Valley View while the elders searched for a full-time minister. The weekly attendance average at that point was about 151 people. Just a few months later, in Spring of 1970, a letter postmarked from Farmers City, Illinois was addressed to "Herb Thompson; Valley View Christian Church; Dallas, Texas." Somehow, the letter found its way to the church, despite having no street address or zip code, and the sender, a young minister named Dennis Slaughter, became the church's new full-time minister on April 5. In no time, the weekly attendance was averaging 189. Early in 1970, Ann Geeting began the Library ministry. To this day, our library thrives under her direction.
The next spring, VVCC held its fifth revival. Wayne Shaw came from Lincoln, IL to speak, and the song leaders were Mike Abbott and a very young Weldon Gilmore (long before he became the associate pastor for Valley View.) A month later, June 27, 1971, an education wing was dedicated. This single-story addition provided 10 more classrooms and remodeling of the sanctuary allowed more room for the growing congregation. By early 1972, about 257 people attended the church on a weekly basis. The number grew to 307 by the next year. During that time, Ron Key came to Dallas to be Valley View's first Youth Minister. In July of 1973, Christian Camp of the Living Word was dedicated. Denny Slaughter served as the fist camp director and his daughter Sheri won the contest to name the camp. VVCC members helped with the creation of the camp, along with other area Christian churches, after Bob Hawley donated 50 acres to the project near Point, Texas. Later that same year, a bus ministry was created by Bud Maddox driving a contraption known as "The Green Monster."
By 1973, the little church was bursting at the seams with a weekly attendance of 373 people so a second worship service was added at 8:30AM. A monthly men's prayer breakfast began in late 1974 and attendance continued to rise; first to 391 in 1975, then to almost 440 in 1976. Richard Hathaway began the tape ministry to provide recordings of the sermons, services, lessons, and musical programs.
By that time, Land O'Lakes Christian Church in Lewisville was founded with help from VVCC and a second story to the education wing was completed. With the building overflowing with people in 1977, the congregation was encouraged to buy bonds for a larger sanctuary. At that point, weekly giving was at $3000 on average and weekly attendance was at 450. On Easter of 1978, VVCC broke ground for their new sanctuary. The construction was slowed due to bad weather and concrete shortages. When a bed of solid rock was encountered while digging the basement, the project was delayed even further. In January of 1979, when the first building fund goal was reached ($120,000), an anonymous giver donated an additional $60,000. On November 11, 1979 the sanctuary was dedicated on the 15th anniversary of Valley View Christian Church. The final cost was about $750,000 and over 800 people attended the service.
Shortly thereafter, the leadership began to look for a full-time music minister while Ron Key served as interim in that capacity. After interviewing several applicants, the leadership decided to offer the job Ron and made a plan to hire an associate pastor instead. Weldon Gilmore again came into the picture, becoming the minister of education.
By 1986, the congregation was experiencing a tight fit in its current home, being "land-locked" by neighborhoods. The elders began searching for property where the healthy congregation could continue to grow. In 1990, they purchased the current 14 acres on the corner of Marsh and Old Mill Roads. The Sunday School Picnic was held on the grounds that year, then the back pasture of a large farm. Shortly thereafter, Rodney Hull was hired as the children's minister and Herman Cain became the Seniors minister.
By 1993, a third service was being held at McCamy Elementary School, just west of the new property, to encourage growth in the area while the Family Life Center was being built. In early 1996, the congregation at Marsh and Valley View accepted the challenge to move into a smaller facility with plans for an immediate annex and coming building program. Sunday School classes continued at McCamy and in the gym with temporary walls which were removed for each service. The annex housed the youth and children's ministries and nursery, while a modular building served as offices for the staff and ministers.
The congregation began a radical building program. To build the sanctuary, $4.5 million would be needed. The elders hired a professional financial team to put a plan in place for raising the needed money. After research, the financial experts tried to encourage the congregation to make a realistic goal of raising $2 million, but the family at VVCC believed that God was in charge and He was certainly big enough to provide all of the money and not just a part of it. The "To God be the Glory" campaign was a complete success, raising just over $4.5 million. After a number of delays, the new facility was completed and dedicated in July of 1999. It contained a 1500 person worship center, large foyer and library, office wing, nursery wing, choir room, and 10 extra adult classrooms. The next year, the elders hired Kevin "Sug" Rossen as a Youth Minister and Jarrod Joplin as a Middle School Minister.
When Senior Minister Emeritus, Dennis Slaughter, had to step down due to health reasons, Ron Key served as Senior Minister from the summer of 2001 until the summer of 2005. The church staff is now led by Dr. Barry McCarty, past President of Cincinnati Christian University and speaker for The Christians'Hour Broadcast, who has been the Preaching Minister of Valley View since March 2004.
- Atlanta Christian CollegeThe links page on the official Valley View Christian Church website also has the following list (consisting of other Dallas-Fort Worth area "non-denominational" Evangelical megachurches, which are apparently part of the "Christian Churches and Churches of Christ" religious body):
- Cincinnati Christian University
- Dallas Christian College
- Emmanuel School of Religion
- Florida Christian College
- Great Lake Christian College
- Hope International University
- Johnson Bible College
- Kentucky Christian College
- Lincoln Christian College
- Manhattan Christian College
- Milligan Christian College
- Ozark Christian College
- Platt Valley Bible College
- Roanoke Bible College
- Winston-Salem Bible College
The Churches in our Brotherhood:Excerpts (without Biblical references accompanying each article) from the "What We Believe at VVCC" page on the official Valley View Christian Church website (http://www.vvcc.org/beliefsgo.asp; viewed 4 October 2005):
- Highland Meadows
- Compass Christian Church
- Central Christian Church
- CrossBend Christian Church
Our beliefs are not innovative... these statements fall well within the boundaries of evangelical theology...Brief biography of Barry McCarty, the preacher who became the leader of Harriet Miers' church just a few months prior to her nomination to the Supreme Court, after she had been a member there for about twenty-five years. From: "C. Barry McCarty, PhD" on the official Valley View Christian Church website (http://www.vvcc.org/barry.asp; viewed 4 October 2005):
We try not to be dogmatic about matters on which believers hold divergent views. Our core beliefs are centered in Christ and His message as supported by Scripture. More obscure doctrine, as well as controversial issues about which the Bible is silent, are left to believers to sort out on their own. On these issues we take no official/dogmatic position. What follows is a summary of what we believe.
We believe the Bible to be the only infallible, inspired, authoritative Word of God. As such it is our final authority for all matters of faith and Christian practice.
We believe that there is one God eternally existing in three persons - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He is the Creator of all things.
We believe in Jesus Christ, God in human flesh, who came to this world to die for our sins and who was bodily raised from the dead.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Living God, who draws people to Christ and who lives in every person who has received Christ.
We believe that man, created by God, willfully sinned and as a result is lost and without hope apart from receiving Jesus Christ.
We believe that salvation - forgiveness of sins - is available only by the grace of God through the blood of Jesus Christ. This free gift of forgiveness is offered to all who receive Christ as Lord and Savior.
We believe the Bible clearly teaches the pattern to receive Christ is to believe in Jesus as God's Son and Savior of the world, repent of personal sin, confess Christ publicly, and be baptized.
We believe that full immersion under water is the prescribed mode of baptism as indicated by Jesus' own example and command, and best depicts our union in His death, burial, and resurrection.
We believe that the Church is the body and bride of Christ on earth, founded on the day of Pentecost, consisting of all Christians everywhere.
We believe that death seals the eternity of each person. Those who are forgiven will spend eternity with God in heaven, those not forgiven will be eternally separated from God in hell.
Dr. Barry McCarty is the Preaching Minister at Valley View Christian Church in Dallas, TX, and the speaker for The Christians' Hour, the longest running radio program associated with the Christian Churches, which is heard each week by five million listeners around the world. He can also be heard on OnePlace.com, the leading provider of Christian audio content on the Internet.From: Dan Hoover, "Greenville Reporter Remembers Miers Pastor", published in The Greenville News (South Carolina) on 9 October 2005; posted by Oran P. Smith on 10 October 2005 on "Palmetto Family Council" (PFC is the South Carolina affiliate of Focus on the Family) blog website (http://palmettofamily.blogspot.com/2005/10/greenville-reporter-remembers-miers.html; viewed 10 October 2005):
Following his undergraduate education at Roanoke Bible College, Dr. McCarty received an MA in speech communication from Abilene Christian University and a PhD in argumentation and debate from the University of Pittsburgh. He taught for three years at the University of Pittsburgh before returning to Roanoke Bible College as professor of speech and preaching in 1980. While in North Carolina, Dr. McCarty also served by appointment of the governor as chairman of the state Social Services Commission. He chaired the 1984 North Carolina Republican Convention and was a delegate to the 1984 and 1988 Republican National Conventions. From 1988 until 1993 Dr. McCarty was president of Cincinnati Bible College & Seminary.
In November 1993 Dr. McCarty left academic life to lead a new church on the north side of Cincinnati as they grew from 140 people meeting in a school to a congregation of 1,000 in seven years. In 2000 he returned home to Atlanta for three years to lead First Christian Church of Roswell as they helped plant two new churches in the Atlanta area, built a mission church in central India, and sponsored a new mission work on the border of the Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan.
Nine presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention, including Charles Stanley, have turned to Dr. McCarty as their chief adviser for presiding over the convention's annual sessions. He is a frequent speaker for church conferences and conventions, including the national Blueprint for the Future of the Church seminars sponsored by Church Development Fund, Standard Publishing, and the North American Christian Convention [i.e., the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ]. Dr. McCarty is the author of four books, a contributor to several Christian journals, and an adjunct professor of preaching at Atlanta Christian College and Roanoke Bible College. He also serves on the board of the Gospel Broadcasting Mission, is chairman of the board of Central India Christian Mission, and a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and the National Religious Broadcasters.
His wife of 28 years, Patricia Powell McCarty, is a former assistant editor for two weekly Christian magazines, Lookout and Christian Standard, and now an administrative assistant at the North American Mission Board. They have three sons: Ryan, a 2003 graduate of Cincinnati Bible College, Noah, a sophomore at Atlanta Christian College, and Ian, a freshman at Roanoke Bible College. A life-long athlete, Dr. McCarty is a former Black Belt Karate champion and member of the Atlanta Cycling Racing Team. His idea of a summer vacation is riding the mountain stages of the Tour de France race course.
Back in 1984, as a political writer for The News and Observer in Raleigh, I had the distinction of being tossed out of the state Republican Party's convention as conservative ire boiled over at the N&O's liberal bent.
Allies of then U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms dominated the convention and passed a resolution, quite unanimously, expelling all of N&O ilk.
As I was departing with colleague Rob Christensen, two steps ahead of an escort squad of Helms Youth, the convention chairman thundered: "The cancer has been removed."
That chairman was Barry McCarty. Today, Dr. Barry McCarty is the preaching minister at conservative, evangelical Valley View Christian Church in Dallas, where, published reports say, anti-abortion literature is passed out.
By various accounts, one of his parishioners is a tithing Sunday school teacher who makes it back for an occasional Sunday service despite her job in Washington: Harriet Miers."
--Political reporter Dan Hoover in The Greenville (SC) News, 10/9/2005.
[PFC Note: Barry McCarty came to Valley View Christian Church as Preaching Minister in March, 2004. Before McCarty, the Pastors of Valley View were Dennis Slaughter and Ron Key. The church has since split with about 200 members joining Key, according to a lengthy report that can be found at the religious studies site adherents.com.]
From: Charlie Savage, "President's pick has leaned left and right", in The Boston Globe, 4 October 2005 (http://www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2005/10/04/presidents_pick_has_leaned_left_and_right/; viewed 4 October 2005):
In 1992, Harriet Miers was upset when the American Bar Association declared that the national lawyers organization endorsed abortion rights.From: Julia Duin, "Supreme Court nominee committed to life of faith", in The Washington Times, 5 October 2005 (http://www.wpherald.com/storyview.php?StoryID=20051005-093617-9944r; viewed 5 October 2005):
Miers, who had just been elected the first female president of the Texas state bar, led a movement calling on the ABA to put the abortion issue to a referendum of all its members rather than let its small policy-making board speak for everyone.
"If we were going to take a position on this divisive issue, the members should have been able to vote," Miers told the Washington Times in August 1993, after the ABA rejected her proposal.
All but forgotten and 12 years in the past, the ABA abortion flap took on instant importance yesterday when President Bush nominated Miers, who is now White House Counsel, to fill the Supreme Court seat of retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, an abortion rights supporter.
Miers's unsuccessful bid to let the ABA's membership decide whether or not the group should endorse abortion rights suggests that she may be a critic of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 abortion decision. Reporters, Senate Judiciary Committee staffers, and activists across the political spectrum are now poring over Miers's record in search of such signs of her legal philosophy.
For the most part, they found only hints, extrapolations, and guesses. On the first day of her nomination, Miers, 60, presented the nation with a mystery. While she has had a long career as a respected corporate attorney, Miers has left almost no public record detailing her judicial views.
...there were some tantalizing and contradictory traces of a record, showing Miers associated with positions that are on both sides of the court's ideological divide.
In 1998, while heading the ABA's rules and calendar committee, she submitted policy views for discussion by the group's membership, including two that are hardly conservative: endorsing an International Criminal Court, and lifting bans on adoptions by homosexuals.
But Gail Alexander-Wise, director of ABA media relations, emphasized that Miers was only carrying out an administrative duty and did not necessarily endorse those positions just because she submitted them for discussion.
Still, early records searches found evidence that Miers has not always been a conservative purist.
Although she has donated exclusively to Republican campaigns since 1989, she previously donated to several Democratic campaigns, including $1,000 to Texas Senator Lloyd Bentsen in 1987; and $1,000 each to the Democratic National Committee and to Tennessee Senator Al Gore's first bid for the presidency in 1988...
In a memo to supporters, Leonard Leo, the executive vice president of the conservative Federalist Society, called Miers "a fearless and very strong proponent of conservative legal views" who "led a campaign to have the American Bar Association end its practice of supporting abortion-on-demand and taxpayer-funded abortions."
Republican strategists also pointed out that in 1989 Miers made a $150 contribution to an antiabortion group in Texas...
Meanwhile, Joe W. "Chip" Pitts III, the immediate past chairman of the liberal Amnesty International USA, said he was "greatly relieved" by Bush's choice. Pitts, a longtime member of the Dallas legal community, said the Miers he knows is a mainstream conservative and a fact-driven pragmatist who is concerned about the poor.
"I think if she were confirmed it would be good for the country," Pitts said.
WASHINGTON -- Late Sunday night, the Rev. Ron Key and his wife, Kaycia, got a mysterious phone call from longtime friend Harriet Miers.From: James Rowley, "Harriet Miers's Supporters Cite Her Evangelical Christian Faith," on Bloomberg.com, 5 October 2005 (http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=10000103&sid=a6jP82mF7BDg; viewed 5 October 2005):
"She talked with my wife and asked us to pray for her," the 57-year-old Dallas pastor said. "She said, 'You know, I cannot tell you why, but please pray for me.'
"Harriet is like that. She is very careful about doing the right thing. Of course, I did pray for her, and the next morning woke up to find out with the rest of the nation that she had been nominated for the Supreme Court."
While the rest of the country debates the merits of Miss Miers' judicial qualifications, her Christian friends and confidants says she is a solid believer who, like President Bush, had a religious conversion in her 30s.
This was in June 1979. Within a few days of her decision, she was baptized at Valley View Christian Church, a conservative Protestant congregation in north Dallas with 1,200 members. The church is not affiliated with the similarly named Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), a liberal mainline denomination.
"The whole basis for becoming a Christian is that you've made mistakes," said Mr. Key, who was pastor of the church at the time. "Obviously, at that time in her life, she became aware of the fact that she needed Jesus, and she committed her life to Him."
Like George W. Bush, who at 39 made a similar life-changing decision in the summer of 1985 during an encounter with the Rev. Billy Graham, Miss Miers was looking for a spiritual change. She was 33.
Nathan Hecht, then a fellow lawyer at the Dallas law firm of Locke, Purnell, Boren, Laney & Neely and now an associate justice of the Texas Supreme Court, played the piano at Valley View. They began to go out together, and one day he invited her to church.
"She had made partner, had a great practice, lots of clients, making a good living, the works," Justice Hecht said. "She got to thinking about her life: 'Is this all there is?' She decided she wanted a stronger faith."
The two "argued about it some," he recalls, and one day, she "came down the hallway to say she had made a decision. She had made a personal commitment [to Christ]."
Not only did this affect her financially -- "If you see her tax returns, you'll see she gives 15 percent to the church," Justice Hecht said -- but it also transformed her views on issues such as abortion.
"After her conversion, she thought more about things in a serious way. She realized life begins at conception. Taking a life after conception was serious business, and therefore you could not do it without a good reason," the judge said.
He, too, received an urgent call for prayer from Miss Miers on Sunday evening, "for what will happen tomorrow morning."
"You'd have to be an idiot not to know what it was," Justice Hecht said.
Miss Miers' prominence as a high-profile lawyer contrasted markedly with her humbler roles at her church.
"For years, while she was president of the Dallas Bar Association, she was a Sunday school teacher," said the Rev. Barry McCarty, recently named as the senior pastor at Valley View. "Here was one of the most powerful women on the Texas Bar teaching first- through third-graders."
Miss Miers left Valley View three weeks ago, when Mr. Key, 57, was ejected over what he termed "leadership differences."
The new Supreme Court nominee is one of about 200 people who followed him to a new congregation of former Valley View members, who are meeting temporarily at a DoubleTree Hotel in north Dallas. The new group has no name yet.
Miss Miers also attends several Episcopal congregations, including her family's parish, the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation in Dallas.
When in Washington, she usually attends the 9 a.m. service across the street from the White House at St. John's Episcopal Church, which Mr. Bush frequently attends. Justice Hecht said he also occasionally accompanies her to services at Christ Episcopal Church in Alexandria, Va.
An Arlington, Va. resident, Miss Miers has contributed to the Falls Episcopal Church in nearby Falls Church. She went there at least once in 2001, administrator Bill Deiss said. The Falls Church, a passionately evangelical congregation, is very similar to Valley View.
White House Counsel Harriet Miers's backers are stressing her evangelical Christian faith in urging skeptical conservatives to support her U.S. Supreme Court nomination.From: David, Response to "Bad Dream", posted 7 October 2005, on "Confirm Them" blog website (http://www.confirmthem.com/?p=1502; viewed 17 October 2005):
Miers's religious conversion in the late 1970s, as recounted by Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht, is being cited by the Bush administration in its drive to reassure conservatives that Miers shares their views on abortion and other social issues. She was picked by Bush to succeed retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, whose vote has been decisive in upholding abortion rights.
Miers's membership in the non-denominational Valley View Christian Church in Dallas has been mentioned frequently in meetings of Republican activists, according to participants. The Bush administration has been conducting conference calls to line up support for Miers, though participants have only provided sketchy details of those discussions.
"The story of Harriet Miers becoming a Christian for many people is a familiar story," particularly when it is linked to her growing political conservatism, said Sean Rushton, executive director of the Committee for Justice, a Washington-based advocacy group that supports President George W. Bush's judicial nominees.
Rushton said her faith is reassuring to many who are wary about her lack of a judicial record. For example, he said, one participant at a meeting noted how impressive it was that she tithes her earnings, paying a tenth of her income to the church. "Somebody else chimed in and said 'and those of you who are Christians know how rare that is,"' Rushton said.
Hecht, 56, who says he and Miers, 60, his former law partner, are "good close friends," recalled that she decided to become an evangelical Christian in 1978 or 1979 when "she started thinking about what's going to be important in life."
"Over the course of several months, she wanted a deeper faith," Hecht said. Before joining the Valley View Church, where Hecht had been a member, Miers had been "half Catholic, half Episcopalian," he said.
Miers's developing opposition to abortion "came about the same time" she joined his church, Hecht said. He said his willingness to talk publicly about Miers's Christian faith wasn't prompted by White House officials. He said the church doesn't have a formal position on abortion, and he didn't describe the opposition of its members in militant terms.
"But it is pro-life," he said. "You don't have to raise your hand or swear on the Bible or sign anything. They sometimes have literature in the back, maybe a speaker will come. They don't march down to the clinics."
Executive Director David O'Steen of the National Right to Life Committee announced yesterday in a statement, the day after Miers's nomination, that the group supports her.
"President Bush has an excellent record of appointing judges who recognize the proper role of the courts," the Washington-based group said. It cited a Dallas Morning News account of Miers's membership in the church that quoted its pastor, Ron Key, as saying the congregation opposed abortion.
The description of Miers's religious conversion emerged as the White House sought to unite more conservative groups around the nominee by persuading them she can be counted on to advance the political agenda of the religious right...
"The No. 1 hook that allows us to take a leap of faith, even those who don't share her faith, is she is an evangelical Christian," said Miranda, executive director of the Third Branch Conference, a Washington-based advocacy group. "I respect that, but it isn't quite enough."
...Other Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee and former Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch of Utah, have voiced strong support for Miers.
[Harriet Miers] would be the first Stone-Campbell on the Court, which would be nice since I am a Stone-Campbell (Church of Christ, Christian Church, Disciples of Christ).From: Dan, response to "Novak's Dirt" (Bob Novak's Evans-Novak Political Report), posted 4 October 2005 on "Confirm Them" blog website (http://www.confirmthem.com/?p=1454; viewed 17 October 2005):
The person I spoke to feels that there is enough of a paper trail out there to incite the Dem interest groups to firmly oppose her -- namely, she is an Evangelical Christian, a member of an at first glance non-denominational Church tht, if you dig just a little bit turns out to be a "Christian Church" in the Stone Campbell, or Restorationist, tradition. Now, I have no problem with this, let me hasten to add, and I even represent an educational institution that is linked on their web page!! (Small world.) I can say that the folks I know who are serious about that tradition have a very high view of Scripture, one that I do not think would be compatible with a "I am personally opposed to abortion, but I support choice" kind of position.From: superskepticalman, response to "Like Christmas in October", posted 14 October 2005 on "Street Prophets: A Daily Kos Community" blog website (http://www.streetprophets.com/story/2005/10/13/214226/01; viewed 19 October 2005):
Interesting about her denomination... Because I come from the same/similar background.From: Mark S. Scarberry, "More on Harriet Miers", posted October 2005 on listserv ConLawProf (http://mailman.lbo-talk.org/pipermail/lbo-talk/Week-of-Mon-20051003/021834.html; viewed 19 October 2005):
Not Roman Catholic, but Christian Church. Her background is "Christian Church/Churches of Christ (Independent)."
Techically speaking, she's NOT evangelical; if anything, she's pre-Evangelical. If one is familiar with George Marsden's history of Fuller Seminary or Mark Noll's very good (but out of print) one-volume history of American Christianity, "Evangelicalism" is a lesser-included, kindler and gentler form of American Fundamentalism that the Scopes trial and Mencken helped laugh back to the margins for the better part of 30 years.
Miers's background as a matter of her present affiliation dates from a movement that scholars call the Stone-Campbell Movement. Essentially an attempt at an ecumenical movement based on rationalistic analysis of the inspired text combined with a primitive model of early church organization, the movement grew in the early and mid-1800s but split into three distinctive groups during the early decades of the 20th century. All three groups share in this resolve to be thoughtful in their religion and faith far more than they may tend to give each other credit for.
Most folks here might be more familiar with the Disciples of Christ; they're the most "liberal" of the three and also have all the organizational characteristics of a mainstream American denomination. Miers' group, the independent Christian Churches, are more conservative politically and theologically and maintain both strong congregational autonomy and some supra-congregational organization. My group, third group, the Churches of Christ are more conservative theologically, but have fully autonomous congregations with no official denominational organization above the congregational level. Plenty of private, "unofficial" organization, though.
The Stone-Campbell Movement churches are now quite small versus the overall population: perhaps 3-4 million adherents among the three groups. Interestingly enough, Max Lucado, the popular "evangelical" writer, is the pulpit minister of the Oak Hill Church of Christ in San Antonio.
...my point is that, for all her conservatism, she comes out of a religious movement that values education and rational thought when it comes to studying and applying the text. The kind of reliance on tradition as would be found among Roman Catholics is nowhere near as strong a force among Stone-Campbell churches, and that seems to be reflecte in what little we can know about her views on the law in general.
Certainly there is some reason to believe that she would not share - despite her Catholic background as a child and younger woman - quite the same theological assumptions that Scalia, Thomas, or Roberts would share.
"Pentecostal" is not a good description of Valley View Christian Church (http://www.vvcc.org/) in Dallas, of which, as I understand it, Ms. Miers is a member. Instead, her church seems to be a part of the Restoration (or Stone-Campbell) movement, the goal of which, as I understand it, is to restore authentic first century Christian faith and practice as revealed in the Christian scriptures. There are three groups of churches (they would not call themselves "denominations") within that movement: (1) the Churches of Christ (with which my university is affiliated, although I am a member of a Presbyterian Church), (2) the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and (3) the Christian Churches/Churches of Christ. It seems that Valley View Christian Church is affiliated with one of those groups, inasmuch as its preaching minister gives broadcast talks on a "Christian Churches and Churches of Christ" program and is the past president of the Cincinnati Bible College and Seminary (now part of the Cincinnati Christian University, I think), which is affiliated with the Christian Churches/Churches of Christ. See http://www.oneplace.com/ministries/the_christians_hour/; The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2004).From: John Dart, "Bush courts evangelicals for nominee support", published in Christian Century, 1 November 2005 issue (http://www.christiancentury.org/article.lasso?id=1421; viewed 26 October 2005):
These churches generally do not emphasize the supernaturally manifested gifts of the Holy Spirit -- like "speaking in tongues" -- that are emphasized by Pentecostal churches. They come from a quite different tradition.
On the general question of the relevance of the nominee's religious faith, here is a comment that I made at Ann Althouse's excellent blog (http://althouse.blogspot.com) in response to one of her posts:
"For 25 years Ms. Miers has been a member of a non-hierarchical, theologically conservative Christian church in Dallas. See http://www.worldmagblog.com/blog/. She will understand deeply the concerns that people in such churches have about judges who seek to remake the culture and who remove social issues from the democratic process. Supreme Court nominees should neither be supported nor opposed on the basis of their religion, but her religious background will help her to understand why a majority of Americans (according to a recent poll) are not happy with the judiciary. I think she is likely to bring a refreshingly different perspective to the Court."...
Mark S. Scarberry
Pepperdine University School of Law
...soon after President Bush on October 3 nominated Harriet Miers, a prominent Texas lawyer and his White House counsel, for another vacancy on the Court, her membership in a pro-life evangelical church in Dallas was cited as a strong sign of her philosophy.Whether or not Harriet Miers should actually be classified as an "Evangelical" may depend on one's definition of the word "Evangelical," as well as how one decides the question of whether or not Stone-Campbellites are Evangelicals. One book that addresses this topic is Evangelicalism & the Stone-Campbell Movement, edited by William R. Baker and published by InterVarsity Press. From the publishers's description of this book (http://ivpress.gospelcom.net/cgi-ivpress/book.pl/code=2693; viewed 19 October 2005):
The president's chief political adviser, Karl Rove, lined up support from leading evangelicals such as Focus on the Family founder James Dobson and the Southern Baptists' Richard Land. Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the Pat Robertson-founded American Center for Law and Justice, supported Miers, as did Christian right figures Charles Colson and Tony Perkins... Speaking to journalists briefly in the Oval Office on October 12, Bush said people want to know Miers's background. "They want to know as much as they possibly can before they form opinions," he said. "And part of Harriet Miers's life is her religion."
Issuing a news release reacting to the president's remarks, Patrick Mahoney, director of the conservative Christian Defense Coalition, said, "You cannot have it both ways. Groups and leaders cannot say religion is off limits during the Roberts confirmation and then promote religion during the Miers confirmation for the sole purpose of political gain."
A longtime friend of Miers, Texas Supreme Court justice Nathan Hecht was encouraged very early by the White House to give interviews about her. Hecht had brought her years ago to Valley View Christian Church in Dallas, where Miers, raised as a Catholic, was baptized.
The congregation identifies itself with Christian Churches and Churches of Christ, a fellowship of independent congregations that--like the mainline Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the conservative Churches of Christ--emerged from the 19th-century restoration movement many called the Campbellites.
The preaching minister at Valley View is Barry McCarty, who has served for 20 years as parliamentarian at annual meetings of the Southern Baptist Convention. His rulings during fundamentalist-versus-moderate battles often upset moderates.
McCarty told SBC's Baptist Press that he thinks Miers would make a "great Supreme Court justice," though he added, "Harriet and I have rarely discussed political issues."
Miers herself, however, may be identifying with a group of about 150 members who broke this summer with Valley View to meet as a separate congregation. Her friend Nathan Hecht recently resigned as an elder at Valley View, according to the Dallas Morning News. Miers attended the new group's October 9 service. Asked by a reporter if she was leaving Valley View, she replied simply, "I'm very happy to be here."
That new congregation, which picked Cornerstone Christian Church as its name, is led by Ron Key. He was on the Valley View pastoral staff some 30 years and was its senior pastor the last four.
At Valley View, Miers had taken her turn at volunteer duties and had served on the missions committee. "She worked out her faith in practical, behind-the-scenes ways," Key told World Magazine editor-in-chief Marvin Olasky. "She doesn't draw attention to herself; she's humble, self-effacing."
Now in the limelight, Miers was found also to have a link to an Episcopal church in Dallas, Church of the Incarnation. She attended its 8:40 a.m. Eucharist October 9 before going to the Valley View breakaway group's Sunday service.
She was accompanied by eight family members. A pew in the chapel is named in honor of Miers's grandparents. "It's no big event," member Harry Winters told the News. "She goes to church here all the time."
The Stone-Campbell Movement, also known as the Restoration Movement, arose on the frontiers of early nineteenth-century America. Like-minded Methodists, Baptists and Presbyterians abandoned denominational labels in order to be "Christians only." They called followers to join in Christian unity and restore the ideals of the New Testament church, holding authoritative no book but the Bible and believing no creed but Christ.
Modern-day inheritors of this movement, including the Churches of Christ (a cappella) and the Christian Churches (independent), find much in common with wider evangelical Christianity as a whole. Both groups are committed to the authority of Scripture and the importance of personal conversion. Yet Restorationists and evangelicals, separated by sociological history as well as points of doctrinal emphasis, have been wary of each other. Evangelicals have often misunderstood Restorationists as exclusivist separatists and baptismal regenerationists. On the other hand, Stone-Campbell adherents have been suspicious of mainstream denominational evangelicals as having compromised key aspects of the Christian faith.
In recent years Restoration Movement leaders and churches have moved more freely within evangelical circles. As a result, Stone-Campbell scholars have reconsidered their relationship to evangelicalism, pondering to what extent Restorationists can identify themselves as evangelicals. Gathered here are essays by leading Stone-Campbell thinkers, drawing from their Restoration heritage and offering significant contributions to evangelical discussions of the theology of conversion and ecclesiology. Also included are responses from noted evangelicals, who assess how Stone-Campbell thought both corresponds with and diverges from evangelical perspectives.
Along with William R. Baker (editor) and Mark Noll (who wrote the Foreword), contributors include Tom Alexander, Jim Baird, Craig L. Blomberg, Jack Cottrell, Everett Ferguson, Stanley J. Grenz, John Mark Hicks, Gary Holloway, H. Wayne House, Robert C. Kurka, Robert Lowery, Edward P. Myers and Jon A. Weatherly.
For all concerned with Christian unity and the restoration of the church, Evangelicalism & the Stone-Campbell Movement offers a substantive starting point for dialogue and discussion.
Dear Mr President,
I write to withdraw as a nominee to serve as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States.
I have been greatly honoured and humbled by the confidence that you have shown in me, and have appreciated immensely your support and the support of many others.
However, I am concerned that the confirmation process presents a burden for the White House and our staff that is not in the best interest of the country.
As you know, members of the Senate have indicated their intention to seek documents about my service in the White House in order to judge whether to support me.
I have been informed repeatedly that in lieu of records, I would be expected to testify about my service in the White House to demonstrate my experience and judicial philosophy.
While I believe that my lengthy career provides sufficient evidence for consideration of my nomination, I am convinced the efforts to obtain Executive Branch materials and information will continue.
As I stated in my acceptance remarks in the Oval Office, the strength and independence of our three branches of government are critical to the continued success of this great Nation.
Repeatedly in the course of the process of confirmation for nominees for other positions, I have steadfastly maintained that the independence of the Executive Branch be preserved and its confidential documents and information not be released to further a confirmation process.
I feel compelled to adhere to this position, especially related to my own nomination. Protection of the prerogatives of the Executive Branch and continued pursuit of my confirmation are in tension.
I have decided that seeking my confirmation should yield.
I share your commitment to appointing judges with a conservative judicial philosophy, and I look forward to continuing to support your efforts to provide the American people judges who will interpret the law, not make it.
I am most grateful for the opportunity to have served your Administration and this country.
Harriet Ellan Miers