Transcript: 'Justice Sunday' on 'FNS'

The following is a transcribed excerpt of "FOX News Sunday," April 24, 2005.

CHRIS WALLACE: This evening, a program called "Justice Sunday," stopping the filibuster against people of faith, will be telecast at churches and Christian broadcast networks across the country. The program is controversial and so is one participant, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.

Joining us now from Kentucky is the organizer of the event, Tony Perkins, president of The Family Research Council.

Mr. Perkins, welcome. Thanks for talking with us today.


WALLACE: As we've mentioned, you say the telecast tonight is an effort to halt the filibuster against people of faith. Do you really believe that people on one side of this argument have less faith than people on the other side?

PERKINS: Absolutely not. We have not said that. We've not implied that. We've simply said there's a pattern emerging. As you pointed out in the first segment, there's people who have — and this is quoting some of the Democratic senators — "deeply held personal beliefs."

It happens to be that those beliefs are regarding to issues of their faith, as in Bill Pryor or Judge Pickering, who have written or spoken about the tenets of their faith. And they actually feel that it should impact and guide their life.

And we're saying that's not acceptable. These candidates deserve an up-or-down vote. We've never said that people on the other side of this issue do not have faith or that they're not people of faith. Just pointing out that a pattern is emerging, that it appears that you have to choose between whether or not you want to live according to dictates of the Bible or serve as a judge on the bench. And that's not right.

WALLACE: You heard what Republican Senator Lindsey Graham just said about his real deep concerns about injecting religion into politics. I'd also like to have you listen to what Democratic Senator Joe Biden said here on "Fox News Sunday" last week. Take a listen.


U.S. SENATOR JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE): The fight over these judges is about whether or not they think the Congress can do something about The Clean Air Act or they can do something about family medical leave. It has nothing to do with the Bible.


WALLACE: Mr. Perkins, don't a lot of the issues that are being fought over in these filibusters, don't a lot of these issues have nothing to do with religion? And can't people of faith disagree?

PERKINS: Oh, absolutely. But, in particular, questions have been asked about the dictates or the guidance of one's religion. In particular, as I mentioned, Bill Pryor, Catholic, who believes abortion is wrong. They zeroed in on that. Charles Pickering was the head of the Southern Baptists in Mississippi. They zeroed in on him. Leon Holmes, they zeroed in on his writings and teachings in Sunday school.

And they made issues out of that. And that was not — we did not interject religion into this process. The Democratic senators did. What this boils down to is that the philosophy of that minority of liberal senators in the United States Senate has been repudiated in almost election after election, almost every recent election.

And so in order to shape the culture and drive public policy, they're holding on to the courts and they're using the filibuster as if it's a junkyard dog to keep people from invading their territory. And that's wrong. These candidates deserve an up-or-down vote.

WALLACE: Well, I agree with you, because I've looked at the record that Democratic Senator Charles Schumer, for instance, raised serious doubts about whether given William Pryor, the then-attorney general of Alabama's strong religious views, he could follow the law. There's no question he did that.

But let me look at some of the questions that were raised about Mr. Pryor. He called Roe v. Wade, the decision allowing abortion, the worst abomination in the history of constitutional law. He said that overturning a law banning sex between homosexuals could pave the way for prostitution, necrophilia, beastiality, incest and pedophilia. I'm not saying who's right or wrong on this issue, but can't someone legitimately have concerns about those statements by Mr. Pryor and, you know, not be anti-faith?

PERKINS: Well, sure. Vote up or down against him.

Do not raise issues of their faith saying that they have deeply-held personal beliefs. And Mr. Pryor's beliefs comes from his faith and he's reflective of many Americans.

I mean, if you're saying that if you have deeply-held personal beliefs you can't serve on the court, in some — you're going to get your beliefs from somewhere. It is generally from your religious conviction.

And so if you carry that out to its furthest conclusion, is that if you are a person that has deeply-held beliefs based on faith, you're not a candidate to serve on the judiciary. And that, again, is simply not right.

WALLACE: Mr. Perkins, I want to put up a statement that you wrote in — explaining and promoting tonight's broadcast. You said, "For years, activists courts aided by liberal interest groups like the ACLU have been quietly working under the veil of the judiciary like thieves in the night to rob us of our Christian heritage and our religious freedom."

Critics say that you are using religion to try undermine the independence of the court.

PERKINS: Well, the courts have been undermining religion in this nation for over 40 years. I mean, they have gone into our schools. They say you can't pray in our schools. We can't even — students can't even pray before a football game.

The Ten Commandments have been taken off the walls.

They have paved the way for same-sex marriage through finding a constitutional right somewhere deep in the shadows of the Constitution.

The attack has come from the judiciary. None of those issues have been legislative from Congress or from a state legislature. They haven't been dictated by an executive. They have come from the courts.

The courts' role in our society as the third branch of government is not to set public policy, not to shape culture, and that is essentially what they've been doing for the last 40 years.

And there's this effort to do whatever it takes to keep control over the courts. That's what you see happening in the United States Senate by using this filibuster and refusing to vote up or down on these judicial nominees.

I mean, I have to ask the question: What are they afraid of? Why are they afraid of voting?

In America, we debate, we discuss and we decide. And you do that by voting.

WALLACE: I do want to impress, though, the point about the independence of the courts, which President Bush said in the last week or so that he believes very deeply. And at a conference last month, you talked about punishing judges that you view as hostile to your cause. Take a listen.


PERKINS: The history of impeachment of judges is not a real good history. But there's more than one way to skin a cat. There is more than one way to take a black robe off the bench.


WALLACE: Mr. Perkins, you talked about taking away funding of courts. One of your colleagues talked about doing away with the entire 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

It sounds like you're saying that if you don't agree with what a court decides, do away with it.

PERKINS: No. What we're saying is there's checks and balances in our government. And it's not just the legislative and executive branch that is accountable. The judiciary is accountable as well. And there are means in the Constitution to hold them accountable.

One is the impeachment of judges. The other is, the Congress created the lower courts, and they get the ability to define what their jurisdiction happens to be. That's constitutional. That's been used in the past.

That discussion, although, in this case is being driven by the fact that you have Democrats that refuse to vote up or down. And, yes, as a result of that, other ideas are being talked about which are constitutional, which have been historically used in this country. Those are not on the table right now.

The focus is simply getting these candidates an up-or-down vote. But, Chris, the judiciary is not above the law. It, too, must be held accountable in our system of checks and balances.

WALLACE: Now, there's obviously been a lot of talk about the fact that Senate Majority Leader Frist is appearing in your telecast tonight.

What do you, beyond his statement, what do you want Senator Frist to do?

PERKINS: Well, Chris, let me say, he's taken a lot of criticism for this. This is the fourth time we've actually had a simulcast like this.

The Christian community is a segment of this society. This particular segment has been involved before, and they have every right to participate in the process and to hear from their elected officials.

Senator Frist spoke to one of these events in the same manner a year ago on the marriage issue. His message is going to be the same. It's going to — what it has been over the last three years, and that is, these judges deserve an up-or-down vote.

I mean, I think it's unfair to criticize...

WALLACE: But I'm asking you legislatively, Mr. Perkins, what would you like to see the Senator do, back in the Senate?

Well, we seem to be having some audio problems here. In any case, we were just about done with Mr. Perkins, and I want to thank him very much for joining us and apologize again to him and to you for our technical difficulties.