The Magazine

A Faith-Based Nomination

The White House is emphasizing Harriet Miers's religious views.

Oct 17, 2005, Vol. 11, No. 05 • By TERRY EASTLAND
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Valley View teaches certain moral views that it believes are grounded in the Bible. Most notably, it is pro-life and opposes same-sex marriage. But Key says that the church doesn't treat those matters in isolation. "The major issue is Jesus Christ," he says, and "the need to lift him up" and for people to "walk with Christ" in their own personal lives. It would be hard to imagine many attending Valley View for two decades as Miers did who hold different views on such questions. Several friends of Miers told me, on background, that she is pro-life and defines marriage in traditional terms.

By the accounts of Hecht and Key, Miers was a quite active member of Valley View. "She went every single Sunday" before moving to Washington to work in the White House, says Hecht, adding that when the church had Sunday night and Wednesday night services, she attended those as well. At one point she taught a Sunday night class for first, second, and third graders. She also served on the missions committee in a church to which missions--with an annual budget of $500,000--are very important. Miers participated in decisions that helped fund Bible translators, orphanages, colleges, and seminaries. Key says the committee met weekly. "With so many missions, it was very time-consuming for her," he told me. She also served as the church's legal counsel.

At the moment, Valley View is experiencing a painful division over matters of governance and worship, and a group has left to form a new church, yet to be named. Hecht, a former elder at Valley View, is part of that group, and Key, whom the church's elders recently discharged, has been preaching at services held for now in a North Dallas hotel. Hecht says Miers is part of the new church, which has the same doctrines as Valley View. "We believe just like they do," says Key.

That Bush has picked for the Court an evangelical Protestant isn't surprising. This is not to say he chose her for that reason, and Bush aides deny that he did. Bush has a record of giving new tasks to people he has long known and trusts. Miers falls into that small category (others include Alberto Gonzales and Karen Hughes), and she isn't there on account of any religious test. Still, Supreme Court justices do come from somewhere, religiously speaking. And given that evangelicals make up a growing share of the population, and given, too, that evangelicals in far greater numbers identify with the GOP than the Democratic party, you'd expect that at some point a Republican president would tap for the Court a lawyer who happened to be an evangelical. Of course, in Bush, we're not talking about any Republican president but one for whom the evangelical designation is apt, his life turning around after a mid-life "recommitment" to Christ, who, as he put it during his first run for the presidency, "changed my heart." Suffice it to say, Bush hardly finds evangelical faith a disqualification for office.

Nor is it surprising that Miers is an evangelical Protestant from Dallas. Three years ago Christianity Today claimed, in a cover story, that Dallas had become "The New Capital of Evangelicalism." Anyone who's lived there (and I grew up in Dallas) will find it hard to argue with that. The magazine reported that Dallas "has more megachurches, megaseminaries, and mega-Christian [meaning evangelical] activity than any other American city." Valley View, with 1,000 members, is big as evangelical churches in Dallas go, but it is hardly a megachurch. And the creation of a new church out of Valley View is a common phenomenon in a city that has experienced enormous church growth--especially of the evangelical variety--over the past half century.

Since coming to Washington, Miers has stayed in close touch with her Dallas friends and constantly asks for their prayers, says Key. She apparently has not found a church in the North American Christian Convention to attend. As is common among evangelicals, she has gone to several churches. Key says she most often goes to St. John's Episcopal, which is across from the White House. Hecht says she also has attended National Cathedral and National Presbyterian. The first two churches are by no means evangelical in theology, but evangelicals sometimes show up for their services. For example, Bush often goes to St. John's. One might think Miers goes there merely because of her commitment and loyalty to Bush. Key says the reason she attends is that St. John's, like Valley View, offers communion every Sunday, and "she believes it is important to have communion" that often.