This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume," August 15, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.
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JIM ANGLE, GUEST HOST: Sunday night, conservative political and religious figures gathered in Nashville to criticize judges who many believe go well beyond their role and make policy that should be left to legislatures. One of them in attendance at Justice Sunday II was William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. He joins me now from New York.
Bill, thanks for joining us.
WILLIAM DONOHUE, PRESIDENT, CATHOLIC LEAGUE FOR RELIGIOUS AND CIVIL RIGHTS: Thank you for having me.
ANGLE: So what was the message of last night’s gathering?
DONOHUE: The message is that Christians, both Protestant and Catholic, are fed up with those senators and those judges who have made it very, very difficult to get our point of view heard. In the case of the senators, they have these thinly veiled religious tests asking questions about your fervently held beliefs, making it very difficult for a person who is pro-life and Christian to get on the federal bench.
In the cases of judges, making decisions about abortion, about same-sex marriage, about the takings clause. Now we have the government coming in there and just taking people’s private property so they can give it out to some rich developer.
Look, if people want to have a constitutional democracy in this country, and we should, we have to understand, as Thomas Jefferson did, that we have three branches of government. They’re supposed to be co-equals. The idea that one branch would have authority which is beyond that of the other two is very un-democratic, and that’s what we object to.
ANGLE: Now, some of the detractors from last night’s gathering said that it is you and people who were at this gathering who want to impose a religious litmus test on judges.
DONOHUE: Well, it wasn’t me who said on a TV program last week that the senators should ask Roberts whether or not he could actually make a true ruling on something if his views conflicted with the Pope. That kind of bigotry came out of the mouth of Mario Cuomo.
It was Nina Totenberg who asked the question on NPR about, "Yes, look out for these Roberts. You know, the wife is involved as a high officer in a pro-life organization. They’ve got adopted children. And this guy is a conservative Catholic."
Then we have Christopher Hitchens saying, "My god, if we have Roberts on the bench that will make four Catholics on the bench. That’s quite a bloc of Catholics. Is it kosher to mention it?"
No, it’s not the evangelicals who are the problem or the Catholic who are the problem here who to have the judiciary tamed, that’s all. The religious test is coming from those people who basically say, "Leave the driving to us." And in fact, we have left the driving to them for a long time, but I’ve got news for the left: We’re taking command of the wheel.
ANGLE: Now, Bill, you believe that legislatures who are answerable to voters should do most of the policymaking and judges should just apply it. Aren’t there exceptions to that case? Aren’t there cases in which legislators go off in a direction that you would not be comfortable with. For instance, California has a vote coming up legalizing same-sex marriage.
DONOHUE: I have never known a situation on abortion or same-sex marriage which has been able to be successful with the voters. When you put these crazy ideas that it’s OK for a kid to be killed even when he’s 80-percent born, to have the doctors put the scissors and puncture his skull, you ask the voters about that in polls, never mind at the polling booth, and I’ll tell you, they’re not going to sustain this.
The idea that two guys can get married — one of the most bizarre ideas I’ve ever heard in my entire life — you may get judges who are going to say that, you can put that to the vote of the people. We just saw what happened in November of 2004. This was put to the voters in 11 states. It lost in all 11 states.
No, look, I’m not saying that the legislature can’t make dumb moves. Of course they can. But who gave the authority to these judges? That’s why I’m saying this. I’d like to see a constitutional amendment, which would make it unconstitutional for any act of Congress to be overturned, unless the decision was unanimous.
That idea didn’t originate with me. It originated with the fourth Supreme Court justice of the United States, John Marshall, seconded by Sidney Hook, the former Marxist whom I studied under at New York University. I think it’s about time that idea — that would really tame them. That’ll go beyond Roberts, I’ll tell you that.
ANGLE: About one minute left, Bill. Last night, Tony Perkins, one of the leaders of the gathering yesterday, said — had said last week that he didn’t really expect Roe v. Wade to be overturned but did expect state legislatures to start passing laws against abortion.
How do you see this issue unfolding in the coming years?
DONOHUE: It’s an excellent question. I can tell you one thing, Jim. It’s the people like Hillary Clinton who are having to get involved in pro-life talk. I don’t think they’re changing demonstrably, but they’re the ones who are making movements our way.
Governor Pataki, who is pro-abortion, just here about a week or so ago said he was against the morning-after pill. They’re the ones walking the walk our way.
The pro-life community does not have to walk towards the pro-choice, because they know the American people, while they may not — while they are against abortion-on-demand, they may allow for abortions in certain circumstances.
What we have in this country — we have the most liberal abortion laws of any place in the world. As Mary Ann Glendon, a law professor of Harvard University, has shown conclusively, none of the European countries have anything approaching what we have.
I think we have to pare back. And the states, of course, are not going to be as wild about this. Sure, liberal places like California and New York, they might take a different view on this, but I think I want to hear from the voice of the people, not the judges on this.
ANGLE: Bill Donohue, thanks very much.
DONOHUE: Thank you.
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