As Yogi Berra would say, “It’s like déjà vu all over again.” Once again, just a couple of weeks before the Nov. 3 election, the same old players are back at the same old game. Echoing their 2010 and 2016 unsuccessful attacks on our independent judiciary, those with a narrow and divisive religious agenda are this time around targeting Alaska Supreme Court Justice Susan Carney in a retention vote.
We are in the midst of a disheartening season of national politics, absolutely unprecedented in its disregard of facts, reliance on personal attacks and outrageous revelations. Many people are understandably taking a respite from Facebook and other social media, as our newsfeeds have become poisoned by a level of mean-spiritedness that threatens to destroy long-standing friendships and family relationships built over a lifetime of shared experiences. Opportunities for reasonable or respectful discussion and reflection, the bedrock of our American democracy, are under assault from a political culture and a news cycle which reward the candidate that yells louder or proves more adept at distortion and manipulation. Common human decency, respect for the rule of law, and a sense of our shared values as Americans are all casualties, sacrificed to the false god of extreme partisanship and a lack of critical thinking.
It is not hyperbole to simply state that our civic discourse and the orderly process by which we self-govern is at risk.
To safeguard against just such a day, the wise framers of the Alaska Constitution set aside the state judiciary to be an independent, nonpolitical and coequal branch of government, operating on the principles of judicial restraint and faithful adherence to the law. Unlike some other states, the Alaska Constitution set up a merit-based and nonpolitical judicial selection and court operation to protect our religious and civic freedoms, as well as our constitutional rights and liberties from interference or backroom deals by special interests or imperfect politicians.
The first and most sacred duty of a Supreme Court justice is to rule based upon the facts of the law and the constitution of this great state of Alaska, and not to be swayed by political pressures and campaigns which will come and go. Only in this way, whether we are Democrat, Republican, independent, nonpartisan, Libertarian, Green, and regardless of faith tradition or none at all, can we be sure that justice in Alaska will be fair and impartial, regardless of which party or politician is currently in office.
The current campaign to deny retention to Alaska Supreme Court Justice Sue Carney is a blatant and manipulative attempt to impose the narrow view of the few, at the expense of the solid foundation of the law and the fairness and impartiality of the constitution.
As faith leaders from a variety of different churches and perspectives, we believe that it is time to reclaim the center, resist the invitation from extremists to politicize our courts, and to defend the traditional framework of an impartial Alaska judiciary. We urge all Alaskans to vote to retain Justice Sue Carney on Nov. 3.
The Rev. Michael Burke is senior pastor and rector of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Anchorage, and the view expressed here is his own, and not necessarily that of the church he serves. He is joined by pastors and church leaders from a variety of Christian religious traditions across the state of Alaska:
The Rev. Shelley Wickstrom, Bishop, Alaska
The Rev. Betty M Glover, Fairbanks
Rev. Dr. Curtis Karns, Executive Presbyter, Alaska
The Rev. Gordon Blue, Juneau
The Rev. Ann Whitney, Big Lake
Reverend Matthew Schultz, Anchorage
Nora Ortiz Fredrick, Anchorage
The Rev. Mary Norton, Kotzebue
Pastor Kaitlin Pabo-Eulberg, Valdez
The Rt Rev. Mark Lattime, Bishop, Alaska
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