For A Red Rose

Just one hour after taking the oath of office, Washington State Supreme Court Justice Richard Sanders did something that may get him thrown off the bench: He wore a red rose on his lapel. The case illustrates how high are the stakes—and how sharp the thorns—in America’s abortion wars. Richard Sanders was inducted onto the Washington Supreme Court on January 26, 1996. An hour after his induction, Sanders pinned a red rose to his lapel and spoke at the Washington [state] March for Life, a peaceful, legal, pro-life rally. Standing on the steps of the state capitol, Sanders told the crowd: “Nothing is, nor should be, more fundamental in our legal system than the... protection of innocent human life.” And he encouraged the crowd to “keep up the good work.” That was too much for State Senator Lorraine Wojahn, a pro-choice Democrat. Wojahn filed a complaint against Sanders with the Commission on Judicial Conduct, charging that Judge Sanders joined “a crowd of political agitators” and “took sides in a controversy [that] periodically comes before the court.” Last month the Commission on Judicial Conduct filed formal charges against Sanders. As evidence of his misconduct, the Commission cited the red rose Judge Sanders wore that day. The public was aghast. “[Wearing] a red rose? How scandalous!” the Seattle Times sarcastically editorialized. “Thank heavens the state... has stepped forward to protect [us] from such corrupt behavior.” Of course, it’s true that abortion cases do sometimes come before the court. But Sanders didn’t comment on any specific case, nor did he specifically refer to abortion. And as Sanders pointed out to the commission, many other judges have made statements or appeared at functions in support of their own favorite causes: the death penalty, crime victims’ rights, gun control, and—yes—abortion rights. In fact, Sanders’s own colleague on the bench, Judge James Dolliver, once told the National Abortion Rights Action League that “a member of my family has had an abortion, which I both encouraged and paid for.” In other words, if a judge pays for an abortion and brags about it, that’s okay. But if he wears a red rose to show he’s pro-life, the abortion lobby wants to wrap duct tape around his mouth and throw him in Puget Sound. Can there any longer be any doubt that the pro-life message is currently in disfavor among America’s elites? Even the ACLU, which normally turns a blind eye when the civil rights of pro-lifers are violated, calls this a case of “egregious viewpoint discrimination.” If Sanders is found guilty, he could be reprimanded, censored, or removed from his seat by his colleagues on the bench. Washington voters should let the state Commission on Judicial Conduct know what they think of these trumped-up charges against Judge Sanders. Christians ought to remember that we should expect persecution, because we are fighting not only for the innocent unborn, but for the Author of Life Himself. The opposition can be aroused even by the wearing of a red rose.


Chuck Colson


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