Monica Goodling, graduate of Pat Robertson's law school, had control of Justice Department attorney hiring

Pat Robertson's Regent University graduate applied ideological screen to civil service applicants

by, May 21, 2007

Monica Goodling, the graduate of Pat Robertson's Regent University law school who played a major role in the Justice Department's firing of U.S. attorneys, also reportedly used her own political and moral criteria in hiring civil service attorneys for the Justice Department, according to the New York Times.

Goodling was deputy director of the Executive Office of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and subsequently served as the department's liaison with the White House. She resigned last month and on Wednesday she is to testify under a grant of immunity in a Congressional investigation of the firing of eight U.S. attorneys for political reasons.

According to the New York Times, Goodling was one of the senior Justice officials who revamped the department's personnel practices. In March 2006, Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez signed a confidential memo giving her and D. Kyle Sampson authoritiy to hire and fire all the department's political appointees --except the U.S. attorneys. Sampson, a former Gonzalez chief of staff, was also forced out by the scandal.

According to the New York Times, Goodling weeded out candidates she believed were Democrats and asked other applicants to identify their favorite president and Supreme Court justice. In one case she asked an applicant about his marital fidelity. The DOJ says it is investigating whether Goodling engaged in prohibited personnel practices, according to the Times.

Ashcroft set the tone
However, Slate reporter Dahlia Lithwick, writing in the Washington Post, points out that former Attorney General John Ashcroft established the model for Goodling's apparently religiously motivated actions.

One of Ashcroft's most profound changes was to the Civil Rights Division, started in 1957 to fight racial discrimination in voting. Under Ashcroft, career lawyers were systematically fired or forced out and replaced by members of conservative or Christian groups or folks with no civil rights experience. In the five years after 2001, the Civil Rights Division brought no voting cases -- and only one employment case -- on behalf of an African American. Instead, the division took up the "civil rights" abuses of reverse discrimination -- claims of voter fraud or discrimination against Christians. On Feb. 20, Gonzales announced a new initiative called the First Freedom Project to carry out "even greater enforcement of religious rights for all Americans." In his view, the fight for a student's right to read a Bible in school is as urgent as the right to vote.

We may agree or disagree on that proposition, but it certainly explains how Goodling came to confuse working to advance Gonzales's agenda with working to advance God's.

In a report last February on the First Freedom Project, asked the DOJ about one of those cases involving Christians -- in which a Jewish social worker was fired from a federally funded program by the Salvation Army because she refused to sign a Christian statement of faith. DOJ went to court on behalf of the Salvation Army, which won. You can see our report and the emails we exchanged with the Justice Department here.

The focus on Goodling has served to encourage media attention on the spread throughout the federal government of graduates of Christian right institutions such as Pat Robertson's Regent University and Liberty University, founded by the late Jerry Falwell. It is unclear how deeply these graduates have penetrated the civil service at the Department of Justice and other agencies.

TOPIC: Church-State Separation