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Conservatives rally for court nominees

Political leaders seek to end gay, abortion rights

(Correction: Because of an editing error, a photo caption on Monday's Nation pages in late editions accompanying a story about a rally on judgeships incorrectly described House majority leader Tom DeLay as minority leader.)

NASHVILLE -- Prominent conservative political and religious leaders called last night for Senate approval of Supreme Court nominees who will vote to end the constitutional right to abortion, against recognition of same-sex marriage, and for fewer restrictions on religious expression in public places.

The Supreme Court has sanctioned ''the right to kill unborn children" and opened the door to legalized ''homosexual sodomy," declared Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, which co-sponsored ''Justice Sunday II."

James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, told the 2,800 mostly white audience in Two Rivers Baptist Church: ''It doesn't matter what we think. The court rules."

Rejected Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork said the high court has defined homosexuality as ''a constitutional right, . . . and once homosexuality is defined as a constitutional right, there is nothing the states can do about it, nothing the people can do about it."

The event was billed as an attempt to awaken Christians to the importance of appointments to the Supreme Court, but it also served as a televised rally supporting the nomination of John G. Roberts Jr. Conservative leaders who attended said they hope Roberts will be the first of three or more Supreme Court picks by President Bush, whose confirmations would fundamentally alter the high court.

The House majority leader, Tom DeLay, Republican of Texas, told the crowd ''activist courts" are imposing ''state-sanctioned same-sex marriage" and ''partial-birth abortion," and are ''ridding the public square of any mention of our nation's religious heritage" in what amounts to ''judicial supremacy, judicial autocracy."

In Supreme Court rulings, ''Rights are invented out of whole cloth. Longstanding traditions are found to be unconstitutional. Moral values that have defined the progress of human civilization for millennia are cast aside in favor of those espoused by a handful of unelected, lifetime-appointed judges," DeLay said.

The mega-church just across the highway from Grand Old Opry was packed, and the speeches were televised to other churches around the country, on some local and cable stations, and on Christian Television Network, Faith Television Network, Connerstone Television Network, and Family Net.

The conservative gathering occurred as liberals who oppose Roberts are struggling to find ways to make their case against the nominee. NARAL-Pro-Choice America last week withdrew a controversial television advertisement linking Roberts to violence at abortion clinics after receiving severe criticism from across the ideological spectrum.

DeLay was the star in a procession of speakers that included Dobson, Bork, former senator Zell Miller, Democrat of Georgia, Prison Fellowship founder Chuck Colson, and Eagle Forum president Phyllis Schlafly.

A group of liberal religious leaders denounced Justice Sunday at a separate news conference. ''The people who are putting together Justice Sunday seem to be far more interested in power than in justice," said Barry Lynn, head of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, before the news conference.

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