I agree with my Bench Memos colleagues that the NYT profile of Judge Pryor Friday was a fair one. I think it is worth emphasizing, though, how wonderfully refreshing–and courageous–it was for Judge Pryor, when invited to distance himself from his previous characterization of Roe v. Wade as an “abomination,” refused: “No,” the judge replied evenly, “I stand by that comment.” He had to have known that, by adhering to his view, he risked losing the votes of more than a few Republican senators.
There is another aspect of Judge Pryor’s courage that goes unnoticed, even in the Times profile. The profiles notes that Judge Pryor is a Roman Catholic. (Of course, Pryor’s religion was made an issue, by both sides, during his confirmation fight, in regrettable fashion). The article does not mention, though–and I have not really heard others mention this–that for a Roman Catholic public figure in Alabama (the home, remember, of Hugo Black, who made his name defending a man charged with killing a Catholic priest) to stand up to Judge Moore’s antics and showboating with the Ten Commandments is also quite courageous. I have no doubt that, in some quarters, Pryor’s refusal to go along with Moore’s defiance triggered nasty, and even anti-Catholic, grumblings. Here, for example, is one blogospheric commentator and Moore partisan accusing Pryor of being a “secular humanist.” Here, another blogger laments Pryor’s “treachery” in the stand-off between the “Catholic” Pryor and the “Christian” Moore. And here, another enlightened “conservative” commentator calls Pryor a “turncoat Judas.”
Judge Pryor is, in my judgment, a credit to the law, and to the bench.