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Originally published October 5, 2005 at 12:00 AM | Page modified October 5, 2005 at 2:59 PM

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Miers' friends say church is evidence of her viewpoints

Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers is a devout Christian who follows what she believes to be Jesus Christ's teachings and opposes abortion...

Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers is a devout Christian who follows what she believes to be Jesus Christ's teachings and opposes abortion, according to interviews with close friends and acquaintances.

In her writings as president of the State Bar of Texas in the 1990s, an image also emerges of a jurist devoted to the deliberate, scholarly practice of law, and to protecting the rights of minorities and the underprivileged. Her work in Texas led some to regard her as a role model for women lawyers.

Some religious conservatives have expressed deep dissatisfaction with the Miers nomination, grumbling that she never has taken public stands on hot-button social issues. But her friends point to her membership at a suburban Dallas church as evidence that she is cut from conservative cloth. They say she's not a "holy roller" who flaunts her religion on her sleeve but she lives her faith as a born-again Christian.

Miers' longtime on-and-off companion — himself a Texas Supreme Court justice — and other confidants pledge that her judicial values would be guided by the law and the Constitution. But they say her personal values have been shaped by her abiding faith in Jesus and by her membership in Valley View Christian Church, where she was baptized as an adult, served on the missions committee and taught religious classes.

At Valley View, pastors preach that abortion is murder, the Bible is the literal word of God and homosexuality is a sin. They also preach that God loves everybody.

In a news conference yesterday, President Bush said he did not recall discussing abortion or Roe v. Wade with Miers, 60, his longtime lawyer. But he added:

"I made my position very clear in the course of my campaigns. I'm a pro-life president. And I know her. I know her heart. I know what she believes. ... And she knows exactly the kind of judge I'm looking for."

The Supreme Court has been closely split on abortion for 20 years. If confirmed, Miers would replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who cast the decisive fifth vote to uphold Roe v. Wade in 1992.

Miers joined Valley View 25 years ago. She and about 150 other members split off to form a new church within the past few weeks, saying they wanted a more staid and traditional place of worship.

One evening in the 1980s, several years after Miers dedicated her life to Jesus, she attended a lecture at her church with Nathan Hecht, her companion, then a colleague at her law firm. The speaker was Paul Brand, a surgeon and the author of "Fearfully and Wonderfully Made," a best-selling exploration of God and the human body.

Afterward, Hecht said, Miers said words he never had heard from her before. "I'm convinced that life begins at conception," Hecht recalled her saying. According to Hecht, Miers has believed ever since that abortion is "taking a life."

"I know she is pro-life," said Hecht, one of the most conservative judges in Texas. "She thinks that after conception, it's not a balancing act — or if it is, it's a balancing of two equal lives."

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Miers' campaign manager in her race for the Dallas City Council in 1989, Lorlee Bartos, recalled she was surprised to learn that her candidate was opposed to abortion rights.

"I wanted her to meet with a group of pro-choice women, and she said she wasn't pro-choice," Bartos said. "She said she had been pro-choice but had changed her view."

Said her friend Ed Kinkeade, a federal district judge: "People in Dallas know she's a conservative. She's not Elmer Gantry, but she lives what she believes. ... I'm like, y'all, has George Bush appointed anyone to an appellate court that is a betrayal to conservatives?"

The comments by Hecht, Bartos and Kinkeade are among several pieces of evidence that have persuaded many other conservatives to support Bush's nominee.

"I encourage people to connect the dots," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice. "Hecht is a pro-life conservative, so we take a lot of comfort from that."

As president of the Texas bar, Miers also published regular columns about her priorities, offering some of the few glimpses — albeit vague ones — into her approach to the law.

A common theme was her belief that the legal community should do more to assist people who feel shut out of the legal system, or who can't afford to break into it.

She pressed for more money to improve legal representation for indigent defendants and said root causes of crime — poverty, lack of mental and other health care, inadequate education and family dysfunction — must be addressed.

"We cannot afford all-consuming, continuous, unproductive, unduly divisive, distracting and self-flagellating discussion to drain all of our time and resources," she wrote for an audience of fellow lawyers. "There is too much work to do and too many productive steps we can take to help ensure delivery of legal services to the poor."

Twice she invoked the final words in the Pledge of Alliance, urging her fellow lawyers not to forget that it promises "justice for all."

Her writings offer little additional insight into her political leanings, a fact that acquaintances say reflects her personality generally.

"I wouldn't know what Harriet Miers' political views are at all," said Kelly Frels, immediate past president of the Texas bar association. "She has never given me the impression she is any ideologue, except in her belief people should give back to the community."

Even in Dallas, though, some religious conservatives say Miers has demonstrated an insufficient commitment to family values. They cited a questionnaire she filled out for a gay-rights group in 1989 as a candidate for Dallas City Council, indicating that gay people should have the same civil rights as straight people and that the city should fund AIDS education and services. After her election, she appointed an openly gay lawyer to an influential city board.

"For goodness' sake, why elevate AIDS over cancer? She shouldn't have filled out that questionnaire at all," said Cathie Adams, president of the conservative Texas Eagle Forum. "President Bush is asking us to have faith in things unseen. We only have that kind of faith in God."

On the same questionnaire, however, Miers opposed the repeal of a Texas anti-sodomy law and said she was not seeking the endorsement of the gay-rights group. In a meeting with the group, she said her "personal conviction is not consistent" with the "homosexual lifestyle," according to one activist's notes.

Hecht suggested that it would be difficult to attend Valley View regularly and support gay rights. At the same time, he said, Miers' faith made her more sympathetic to the struggles of others, and her duties as a City Council member transcended her personal views.

"She represented those people, and she wanted to represent the whole city," Hecht said. "It doesn't mean that you approve of their lifestyle."

As a Dallas City Council member in 1991, Miers supported a federal judge's efforts to increase minority representation on the council by changing the way its members were elected.

An occasional attendee of Catholic or Episcopal services through college and graduate school, Miers was introduced to Valley View Christian Church by Hecht.

The 1,200-member church is a nondenominational Christian church that does not require members to subscribe to any particular point of view, its leaders and members said. But active members such as Miers generally are attracted by its conservative, Scripture-based philosophy, they said.

"You could certainly say that she is a very dedicated and active member of a conservative, evangelical Christian church," said Barry McCarty, the church's pastor.

Miers maintained her connection with the church even when her job with the Bush White House kept her in Washington.

Compiled from The (Baltimore) Sun, The Washington Post, The Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times

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