CLAYMONT — One of the country’s leading pro-life activists urged more than 200 local pro-life supporters to mobilize for the national elections this November, saying the country needs elected officials willing to wrestle policy-making control away from federal courts and back to its proper place in Congress.
"We’re not governing ourselves anymore," said Father Pavone, president of Priests for Life and of the National Pro-Life Religious Council. "We’re being governed by gods and goddesses in robes who think they have the final word.
They do not have the final word."
His 45-minute speech ending the daylong convention of the Delaware Pro-Life Coalition was part pep rally — as he exhorted his audience to help elect pro-life candidates this fall — and part civics class, as he outlined a path to rein in what he called "courts …running completely out of control."
The November election, Father Pavone said, is "the one overriding priority that this movement has for the rest of this year." It should target those politicians who are pro-choice, he said, or who say they are personally opposed to abortion but cannot impose their views on others.
"Get them out of office," he said in raised voice, prompting a standing ovation.
Pro-life supporters can help do that, he said, by conducting voter registration campaigns, distributing candidate information brochures, writing letters to the editor, and voting.
Some politicians will attempt to hide behind the courts, Father Pavone said. "They will say to you, ‘I respect your view — I may even share it. But you know what? The courts have taken it out of my hands.’"
In response, he said, "It is time for us to elect people who understand that the Constitution gives them the authority to take this (policy-making authority) back."
Citing Article III Section 2 of the Constitution, Father Pavone said the founding fathers gave Congress authority to regulate the scope of the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction except for certain specified matters.
"It means that Congress could pass a law that says the court may no longer make decisions about abortion or about school prayer," he said. "That’s what needs to be done, and it needs to be done immediately."
The founding fathers, he said, never meant for a separation of church and state as the courts have decided today. "Nowhere in the Declaration of Independence or in the Constitution do you find the words ‘separation of church and state,’" he said, noting that the phrase came from a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to Baptist ministers in Virginia.
"[The phrase] was hijacked by the Supreme Court (in 1947) and given a different reading," the priest said. "After that, all sorts of strange things began to happen," including, he said, bans on prayer and Bible readings in public schools, legalization of abortion, and more recently same-sex marriages.
"It’s time we go back to the intent of our founding fathers," he said.
In an interview after the dinner, Father Pavone, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, said the U.S. Senate’s approval of the Unborn Victims of Violence Act last week is a "constructive step" toward providing full legal status to the unborn.
"The law is catching up with common sense," he said.
President Bush is expected to sign the bill, which Father Pavone called the latest in a string of pro-life legislative victories, following a law that protects children who were born alive despite attempted abortions and one that bans what’s known as partial-birth abortion.
The Unborn Victims of Violence Act is also known as "Laci and Conner’s Law" after Laci Peterson and her unborn son, whose bodies were recovered last April.
Her husband, Scott, is now on trial for murder in their deaths. The act states that anyone who harms an unborn child while committing a federal crime — such as assaulting the child’s mother on federal property — also commits a federal crime against the child. The Senate approved the measure 61-38. The House passed the bill 254-163 in February.