Count this as the moment that Newt Gingrich lost his bid to become the next President of the United States.
Newt Gingrich has decided that his best chance for winning the Republican vote in the Iowa caucuses a few weeks from now is to let Christian evangelical voters know that he’s the most extreme sort of religious fundamentalist. But how to send that message?
Yesterday, Gingrich decided to tip his hat to the Religious Right by announcing that, if he is elected President, he will send federal marshals to arrest and imprison judges who rule in behalf of the separation of church and state. The specific case that Gingrich was referring to was one in which Judge Fred Biery ruled that a public school could not use specifically Christian religious language to characterize its graduation ceremony. Doing so would force all students, whether Christian or not, to take part in a government-funded Christian ceremony.
The ruling made perfect sense – to those Americans who are familiar with the First Amendment of the Constitution. To Newt Gingrich, however, it’s an outrage that public schools aren’t used to promote Christianity on the public dime. So, he wants Judge Biery hauled off to prison.
Gingrich’s threat to lock up a U.S. district court judge shouldn’t only be worrisome to Americans who value freedom of religion. This radical threat from Gingrich shows that he has no respect for the basic structure of the separation of powers in the federal government, as established by the Constitution. If we were to have a President of the United States who would arrest judges as political prisoners merely for holding a legal opinion that differs from White House policy, our courts would be transformed into chambers of fear, where political conformity, rather than legal rights, would determine the outcome.
Newt Gingrich has long been prone to fits of personal instability, but this threat takes the problem far beyond the realm of mere issues of temperament. Electing Newt Gingrich as President would threaten the integrity of American democracy. No reasonable person can vote for Gingrich this coming year.