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Nomination of J. Leon Holmes to be United States District Judge

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be dispensed with.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, I understand that we are under time control. I yield myself such time as I may use.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Massachusetts is recognized.

Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, I strongly oppose the nomination of Leon Holmes to a lifetime appointment to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas. His record gives us no confidence that he will be fair in the wide range of cases that come before him, particularly in cases involving the rights of women, gay rights, and the right to choose. His record contains example after example of extreme views of the law that suggest he will not follow established precedent.

Every nominee who comes before us promises to follow the law, including laws in cases with which they disagree. Mr. Holmes is no exception. But the Senate's constitutional role of advise and consent gives each of us the duty to evaluate these claims carefully. It is clear from his record that Mr. Holmes has not shown the dedication to upholding constitutional principles and the judgment necessary for a Federal judge.

Mr. Holmes has expressed extraordinary hostility to equal rights for women. In 1997 he wrote that it is a woman's obligation to "subordinate herself to her husband." He also wrote that a woman must "place herself under the authority of the man." It doesn't get much more extreme than that.

In fact, Mr. Holmes has blamed feminism for the erosion of morality. He has written that "to the extent that we adopt the feminist principle that the distinction between the sexes is of no consequence ..... we are contributing to the culture of death." Are we really expected to believe that someone with such medieval views will dispense 21st century justice?

This nomination is an insult to working women. It is an insult to all Americans who believe in fairness and equality.

Just last week we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which gave women equal opportunity in the workplace. Democrats and Republicans alike joined in celebrating that important law. If that celebration is to be more than lip service, we cannot approve this nomination.

Judges appointed to lifetime positions on the Federal court must have a clear commitment to the principles of equality in our basic civil rights laws. Mr. Holmes' view that a woman must "place herself under the authority of the man" does not demonstrate such a commitment.

I ask unanimous consent to be printed in the RECORD Mr. Holmes' article containing these statements.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:

Gender Neutral Language-Destroying an Essential Element of Our Faith

(By Leon and Susan Holmes)

Our whole life as husband and wife, as father and mother to our children; and as Catholic Christians, is based on the historic Catholic teaching regarding the relation between male and female.

So when that teaching is rejected, the rejection pierces the heart of who we are as persons, as family, and as Catholic Christians. Nothing causes us greater grief than the fact that the historic and scriptural teaching on the relationship between male and female is widely unpopular in the Church today. We have studied these teachings, prayed about them, and struggled to live them for the largest part of the almost 25 years we have been married; and we ask your indulgence and patience as we attempt to share the fruits of our reflection and struggle with you.

The historic teachings of the Catholic Church are grand, elegant, and beautiful. When they are unpopular amount Catholics, it is usually because they are not understood; and so it is; we think with respect to the teaching of the Church regarding the relationship between male and female. The passages of Scripture that call Christians "sons of God" and "brothers" are offensive only if they are misunderstood. The teaching that only males can be ordained to be the priesthood and the diaconate is offensive only if it is misunderstood. Far from being offensive, these teachings are elegant and beautiful; and true for this age, as for every age, because truth is eternal.

Catholic theology is essentially sacramental, which is to say that its teaching is permeated by and flows from the notion that there is an unseen reality that is symbolized by visible, external signs. We believe, for instance, that Christ was incarnate as a male because His masculinity is the most fitting sign of the unseen reality of His place in the Holy Trinity, who is revealed to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Our relationship to God is a part of this unseen reality, and it is twofold. In one aspect, we are related to God as individuals; in another aspect, we are related to God as a community. Individually, we are adopted into the same relationship to the God the Father as Christ enjoys,which is to say; we are all sons of God the Father and brothers of Christ. All of us, male and female, are equally sons of God and therefore brothers of one another. The equality of our relationship is destroyed when some of us are called sons but others are called daughters, some are called brothers but others are called sisters. Daughters have not the same relationship to their father as sons have. Daughters cannot be like their father to the same extent as can sons. Sisters have not the same relationship to brothers as brothers have to one another. Sisters cannot be like brothers to same extent as brothers can be like one another. Hence Scripture refers to all Christians-Jew and Greek, male and female, slave and free-as sons of God (Gal. 3:26) and brothers of one another to signify the equality, the sameness of our spiritual relationship in its unseen reality to God.

As a community, as a Church, we also have a relationship to God as the bride of Christ. This relationship is an unseen reality that is signified in the visible world by the relationship between male and female and especially by the relationship between husband and wife. Hence, the husband is to love his wife as Christ loves the Church; and as the Church subordinates herself to Christ, in that manner the wife is to subordinate herself to her husband. The verb used in Ephesians 5:24 is hypotassetai, which means to place one's self under. The Church is to place herself under the protection of Christ and ipso facto place herself under His authority. Likewise, the woman is to place herself under the authority of the man and ipso facto place herself under his authority. Both the man and the woman are to live so that their relationship is a visible sign of an unseen reality, the relationship between Christ and the Church. Distorting the relationship between male and female is as sacrilegious as profaning any of the other sacraments that by which God symbolizes a divine, unseen reality through tangible symbols.

The use of male and female to symbolize the relationship between Christ and the Church is pervasive in Scripture. In Leviticus, for instance, whenever a sacrificial animal was to stand for Christ, a priest, or a leader, the animal was required to be male; whereas, whenever a sacrificial animal was to stand for the common man or for the community, the animal was required to be a female. In the Gospels, Christ always forgave and never condemned women, though he sometimes condemned men. Women were always forgiven because the Church will always be forgiven. Men could be condemned for their sins because Christ was condemned for our sins. If we were to use "gender neutral" language to describe the relationship between Christ and the Church, we would destroy an essential element of our faith. To be true to the reality of the relationship, we must recognize Christ as the groom and the Church as the bride. Christ cannot be the bride, the Church cannot be the groom; nor can Christ and the Church both be groom or both be bride.

This unseen reality is signified once again by an outward sign within the Church, which ordains only males to those positions in the Church that represent Christ among us, the priesthood and the diaconate. Ignoring the distinction between male and female in ordination is like ignoring the distinction between male and female in marriage. It has nothing to do with dignity or worth of male compared to female. When a woman chooses to marry a man, it is not because she thinks men have more dignity or value than women. The suggestion that male-only ordination implies a devaluation of women is as silly as the suggestion that a woman devalues women when she looks exclusively among men for a husband. The assertion that males and females both should be ordained without regard to their sex is akin to the assertion that same-sex relationships should be regarded as having equal legitimacy with heterosexual marriage.

The demand of some women to be ordained is prefigured in the Old Testament when Korah and 250 "well-known men" claimed the right to offer sacrifice equally with Moses and Aaron because "all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them" (Nm. 16:3). It is true that all the congregation are holy and the Lord is among them; but it does not follow that all are entitled to offer sacrifice. By the same token, it is true that men and women are equal in their dignity and value, but it does not follow that all are entitled to be ordained. Ordination does not signify the intrinsic worth or holiness of the one ordained; it signifies that the one ordained is to be another other Christ to the Church, which is to say another groom to the bride. A woman cannot be ordained, not because she is inferior in dignity to a man, but because she cannot be a husband to the Church, which is the bride of Christ.

In a way that we cannot understand, the relationship between the unseen reality and the visible signs is reciprocal. St. Paul says he was made a minister to make all men see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places (Eph 3:10). He also says the apostles have been made a spectacle "to the world, to angels and to me" (1 Cor. 4:9). In the same vein, he says a woman should have a veil on her head (as a sign of authority) "because of the angels." It is an awesome thought that what we do somehow signifies the reality of the unseen world; but it is even a more awesome thought, that God calls us to make known the reality of the unseen world to the unseen world.

In the biological sphere, life depends on the relationship between male and female. In this respect, the biological sphere is a visible sign of the unseen reality of the spiritual realm in which life depends on the relationship of Christ and the Church. Sexuality is a "great mystery ..... in reference to Christ and the Church" (Eph. 5:32).

All of this is why denominations whose theology is not essentially sacramental have been quick to endorse artificial contraception, divorce and the ordination of women; and it is why they are much more open to the legitimation of homosexual relationships. Churches whose theology is essentially sacramental, which is to say the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches, cannot accommodate the spirit of the age with respect to these matters no matter how overwhelming the society pressure. To do so would be to repudiate the essence (in the strictest Thomistic sense of the word) of our whole theology. Apart from sacramental theology sexuality is just another physical function and the distinction between the sexes is no more significant than the distinction between right-handed persons and left-handed ones. When we treat the distinction between the sexes as of no consequence, we are parting from sacramental theology, which is to say we are parting form Catholicism, which is to say we are parting from Christianity.

It is not coincidental that this culture of death in which we live is a culture that seeks to eliminate the distinctions between male and female. It is not coincidental that the feminist movement brought with it artificial contraception and abortion on demand, with recognition of homosexual liaisons soon to follow. The project of eliminating the distinctions between the sexes is inimical to the transmission of life, which is the raison d'etre of that distinction in both the biological and spiritual realms. No matter how often we condemn abortion, to the extent we adopt the feminist principle that the distinction between the sexes is of no consequence and should be disregarded in the organization of society and the Church, we are contributing to the culture of death.

As Church, we are the bride of Christ. We are to submit to Him. This means in part that we are to take on the mind of Christ rather than adopt whatever paradigm prevails in the age in which we live. As Bishop McDonald said last January when talking about abortion, "I do not want a Church that is right when the world is right, I want a Church that is right when the whole world is wrong."

We write in a spirit of friendship, not of animosity. We have brought all five of our children into the Catholic Church. It is no exaggeration to say we have bet their eternal lives on the Church. At the same time, we have built our whole family life on the traditional and now unpopular teachings about the relationship between male and female. What are we to do when we see these pillars of our life start to separate and pull apart? How do we stand on both? How can we stand on only one?

Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, Mr. Holmes has expressed opinions that cast doubt on his fairness on other civil rights issues as well. He has criticized remedies to enforce the requirements of school desegregation under Brown v. Board of Education. He has written that Federal court orders requiring assignment of students to desegregate public schools are part of "a cultural and constitutional revolution in the past 20 years ..... for which the Nation has never voted." He has called such remedies authoritarian and argued that it is an "injustice," that overturning them would require a change in the Constitution.

I ask unanimous consent that Mr. Holmes' letters on this subject also been printed in the RECORD.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:

[From the Christian Science Monitor, Dec. 23, 1980]

Nina Totenberg asks in "Did America vote for this, too?" whether the people of the United States voted for "a cultural and constitutional revolution." The truth is that the United States has undergone a cultural and constitutional revolution in the past 20 years, and the revolution is one for which the nation has never voted.

Seven years ago, seven members of the Supreme Court held that the abortion laws in all 50 states violate the 14th Amendment, despite the fact that virtually every state that ratified the amendment had a restrictive abortion law at the time. Eight years ago the Supreme Court held the death penalty laws in virtually every state to be in violation of the 14th Amendment, despite the fact that the very wording of the amendment acknowledges the authority of states to take life when done according to due process. Nine years ago the Supreme Court held that the 14th amendment grants to federal courts the power to order schools to bus students to achieve racial balance. Nineteen years ago the Supreme Court held that public schools are not allowed to authorize prayer as a part of their activities.

Combined, these rulings constitute a significant cultural and constitutional revolution. This revolution, not the conservative reaction to it, is the novelty on the American political scene. This revolution has been accomplished by authoritarian means, despite the charges that its opponents are authoritarians.

If we now submit these issues to the electorate or the legislative process, the only injustice will be that the opponents of the recent revolution will bear the burden of mustering a two-thirds majority in Congress and majorities in 38 states in order to restore the Constitution.

Leon Holmes,
Augustana College, Rock Island, IL.

[From Daily Dispatch, December 24, 1980]

Abortion Issue

TO THE EDITOR: In response to the misrepresentations of Murray Bishoff's recent letter, I make the following comments:

First, the HLA explicitly permits "those medical procedures required to prevent the death of the mother" Second, nothing in the HLA would affect the birth control pill or prevent anyone from buying and using contraception. Mr. Bishoff simply misstates the effect of the HLA on these issues. third, it seems to me that the language of the HLA neither explicitly allows nor explicitly prohibits the IUD and the morning after pill. Bishoff's concern for rape victims is a red herring because conceptions from rape occur with approximately the same frequency as snowfall in Miami. Fourth, it is silly to say that such trivialities are the principal concern of either HLA proponents of opponents.

If Bishoff really is not "anti-life" and if he sincerely believes the HLA to be overly broad, he and others like him should propose a "complex response" to these "complex issues." In the absence of an alternative proposal, I cannot help but think their criticism a dishonest effort to perpetuate the status quo, with some 1.8 million abortions per year performed, including 160,000 in the 6th, 7th and 8th months of pre-natal life. In light of these facts, it simply cannot be true that "The reality is that no one likes abortion."

Bishoff's letter contrasts "a fetus" with "people." But the word "fetus means, simply, a person developing in the womb. To continue our present policy is to give those persons in the womb no rights at all, not even the most minimal right, the right to life. I think that the abortion issue is the simplest issue this country has faced since slavery was made unconstitutional. And it deserves the same response.

Leon Holmes,

Ass't Prof. of Political Science,
Augustana College, Rock Island.

Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, he opposed the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987, an act approved by a broad, bipartisan majority to restore the original meaning of title VI and title IX of the Civil Rights Act which prohibit discrimination in federally funded activities.

Mr. Holmes has also expressed views hostile to gay rights. At one point he even said he opposed the feminist movement because he feared it would bring "recognition of homosexual liaisons."

Mr. Holmes' record also indicates that he is intensely opposed to a woman's constitutional right to choose. In his answers to questions, however, he said that he disagrees with the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade, but he would not try to undermine Roe if he became a Federal judge.

But merely repeating the mantra that he will "follow the law" does not make it credible that he will do so.

Regardless of the assurances he made after he was nominated for a Federal judgeship, no one looking at his record can avoid the conclusion Mr. Holmes has dedicated much of his career to opposing Roe v. Wade. It defies reason to believe he will abandon that position if he becomes a Federal judge.

In fact, he has demonstrated a clear commitment to using a variety of political and legal means to take away a woman's right to choose. His statements opposing it are among the most extreme we have seen.

He has said the concern expressed by supporters of choice for "rape victims is a red herring because conceptions from rape occur with the same frequency as snow in Miami." According to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, at least 25,000 pregnancies resulted from rape in 1998 alone.

Mr. Holmes has likened abortion to slavery and the Holocaust.

In the mid-1980s, Mr. Holmes helped write an amendment to the Arkansas Constitution to ban the use of any public funds for abortion, even in cases of rape or incest, and even if abortion was necessary to safeguard a woman's health.

In 1995, he stated the "only cause that I have actively campaigned for and really been considered an activist is the right to life issue."

In 2000, he wrote an article expressing his approval of "natural law," the idea that people have inalienable rights that precede the Constitution. That great phrase is part of the Declaration of Independence. But then Mr. Holmes went on to state any recognition of a right to privacy in cases such as Roe v. Wade is illegitimate and inconsistent with natural law. Supporters of Mr. Holmes' nomination say his statements do not show he will fail to enforce the law if he becomes a Federal judge. It is true that after he was pressed by several Senators, Mr. Holmes admitted his statement that pregnancies from rape occur as frequently as snow in Miami was too inflammatory. But this was more than an isolated statement-it came in the context of an extensive pattern of strident, anti-choice statements, writings, and actions over the past two decades. His cavalier dismissal of the problems facing rape and incest victims is consistent with his repeated attempts to repeal or severely limit the right to choose, even in cases of rape or incest.

Supporters of the nomination suggest many intemperate statements he has made say nothing about how he will interpret the law. But that defies common sense. Mr. Holmes is a self-proclaimed activist against a fundamental constitutional right.

Why should we approve a nominee who has made such strong and intemperate statements against rights established in the Constitution? Why should we confirm a nominee who has stated women must be subservient to men? Even if we assume those strong opinions will somehow not affect how he interprets the law, they clearly do not reflect the judgment and temperament we expect from a Federal judge.

I respect the views of my colleagues from Arkansas who support Mr. Holmes' nomination. But too much is at stake. Once nominees are confirmed for the Federal courts, they serve for life, and will influence the law for years to come.

We all know the values Americans respect the most: the commitment to fairness, equality, opportunity for all, and adherence to the rule of law. The American people expect us to honor these values in evaluating nominees to the Federal courts, and our consciences demand it. Mr. Holmes has every right to advocate his deeply held beliefs, but his record and his many extreme statements-especially about women's role in our modern society-raise too many grave doubts to justify his confirmation, and I urge my colleagues to oppose his nomination.

Mr. President, I suggest the absence of a quorum.

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