Second Round of ‘Anti-Catholic’ Ads Slated

Posted August 15, 2003 at 6:20pm

A conservative group with close ties to the White House is expanding its attacks on Senate Democrats for an alleged anti-Catholic bias in dealing with President Bush’s judicial nominations.

The Committee for Justice plans to begin running its so-called “Catholics Need Not Apply” ads in early September in a trio of national Catholic publications, specifically targeting the much-sought-after voting bloc. That contrasts with the group’s previous ad campaigns, which ran in newspapers in the home states of specific Senators.

The group has been fairly quiet during the August recess after an intense political brawl in July over its newspaper ads placed in Maine and Rhode Island. The ads depicted the doors of a federal courthouse closed and a sign with the anti-Catholic motto hung outside.

“September is another moment,” said Sean Rushton, executive director of the committee. Rushton said it would be “more or less the same ad,” although the accompanying caption will be re-tailored to reflect the new Democratic filibuster of Alabama Attorney General William Pryor, a self-described devout Catholic who personally opposes abortion rights. Pryor’s nomination to the11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was blocked by Democrats on July 31, as Republicans came up seven votes short of the 60 needed to end the filibuster.

Democrats have countered that Republicans have unnecessarily injected religion into a fight that is primarily about political ideology and Pryor’s truthfulness in testimony regarding his GOP fundraising activities.

And the accusations of an anti-Catholic bias are quite personal to Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, home to three of the most prominent Irish Catholic politicians in the nation: the current ranking member, Sen. Pat Leahy (Vt.), and two former chairmen, Sens. Edward Kennedy (Mass.) and Joseph Biden (Del.).

“Are they so afraid of the White House that they should allow this religious McCarthyism to take place?” Leahy asked of his GOP colleagues the day of the Pryor vote.

Of the new ads, Leahy’s spokesman, David Carle, said Friday, “Spreading a lie farther does not make it less of a lie.”

The Committee for Justice’s new ads are expected to be printed next month in the National Catholic Register, The Wanderer and Our Sunday Visitor, three nationally distributed papers. Rushton said the targeted voters in the ad campaign are those who are religiously conservative: “Catholics who are churchgoing, active Catholics.”

Rushton said in the fall the group may return to a television ad campaign, particularly on two other circuit court nominees, California Judge Carolyn Kuhl and U.S. District Judge Charles Pickering. Kuhl is also Catholic.

The group’s founder is C. Boyden Gray, the White House counsel for the first President George Bush, who has helped raise money for the group, as did the nephew of the current President Bush. The campaign manager for Bush’s successful 2000 campaign, Joe Allbaugh, and his wife, Diane, are prominent donors to the group.

Rushton said the print ads in the “Catholics Need Not Apply” campaign have generated enough attention, particularly through media stories prompted by Democratic outrage, that there was no need to do a TV campaign.