Opinion: Morning Examiner

First major victim of Harry Reid's tyrannous Senate majority could be separation of church and state

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Beltway Confidential,Congress,Mark Tapscott,Morning Examiner,Senate,Supreme Court,Harry Reid,Constitutionality,First Amendment,Religion

When Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the Democratic majority blew up two centuries of Senate practice by repealing the filibuster on most presidential nominees, they killed a key procedural protection for the rights of minorities.

Whereas before 60 votes were required to end debate on a nominee, now only a simply majority of 51 senators can silence opponents and force a final vote for or against confirmation.

The 60-vote threshold forced supporters and opponents of a nomination to temper their views, thus encouraging reasonable compromise rather than straight-up all-or-nothing votes that can enable a majority to tyrannize a minority. That's the theory anyway.

Here's the first example

Late last week, Senate Democrats confirmed Cornelia Pillard to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. "That makes two additional Obama nominees on the court with the lightest workload, and it gives leftists a 6-4 advantage on the court that hears most challenges to executive actions," according to the Patriot Post.

Pillard, a tenured Georgetown University law professor, is a former Clinton administration Department of Justice political appointee. She is, according to National Review Online's Patrick Brennan, "probably the most extreme of President Obama's" many federal judicial nominees.

How extreme is she?

In 2011, Pillard said of a case then before the Supreme Court that the idea that "the Constitution requires deference to Church decisions about who qualifies as a minister ... seems like a real stretch."

The Supremes unanimously disagreed with Pillard and affirmed that the government has no power to tell churches who they can and cannot hire as ministers.

If Pillard's view prevailed, there would be no such thing as separation of church and state, nor would the First Amendment's guarantee of religious freedom be anything other than mere words.

Pillard now has power

Pillard is now part of a liberal majority of the appeals court with the most influence on what is commonly referred to as the second most important court in the country.

This comes at a time when, as today's Washington Examiner editorial points out, liberals are assaulting the traditional understanding of religious freedom on many fronts.

Sooner or later, Pillard's panel will have to decide a case whose outcome could determine which side wins the liberal war on the First Amendment.

On today's washingtonexaminer.com

Editorial: Liberals take aim at freedom of speech and religion.

Richard Pollock: Top Navigator official had no contingency plan for health care website failures.

EXography: States say most uninsured will still be uncovered after Obamacare's first year.

Hugh Hewitt: GOP's "Twitter Primary" gives insight on 2016 campaign.

Gregory Kane: Race helps Obama slide out of Mandela memorial selfie controversy.

James Jay Carafano: Coalition of democracies is key to getting China to behave.

In other news

CBS News/60 Minutes: NSA speaks out on Edward Snowden.

The Washington Post: 2014 not likely to be a productive year for divided Senate.

The New York Times: Former Saudi intel chief blasts Obama foreign policy.

USA Today: Hillary Clinton may play role in 2014 congressional elections.

NBC News: John McCain warns U.S. could act on Ukraine-Russia deal

The Washington Times: Paul Ryan pleads with conservatives as budget deal heads to the Senate.

Righty Playbook

The Weekly Standard/Irwin Stelzer: Bankers win, workers lose.

National Review Online/Eliana Johnson: Chris Christie's right hand.

Daily Caller: More than 50,000 paper Obamacare applications haven't been touched yet.

Bonus must-read

The American Conservative/W. James Antle III: Why Steve Stockman doesn't scare the GOP establishment.

Lefty Playbook

Talking Points Memo/Catherine Thompson: Pope says he's no Marxist.

American Prospect/Gersham Gorenberg: Dates of judgement in the Middle East.

Washington Monthly/Katherine Geier: R.I.P. Joan Fontaine and Peter O'Toole.

Bonus must-read

New Republic/Noam Schieber: The question at the heart of the Democratic schism.

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