Resist attempts to politicize Alaska’s courts

As Yogi Berra would say, “It’s like déjà vu all over again.” Once again, just a couple weeks before the Nov. 8. election, the same old players are back at the same old game. Echoing their 2010 unsuccessful attacks on our independent judiciary, those with a narrow and divisive religious agenda are this time targeting Alaska Supreme Court Justices Joel Bolger and Peter Maassen in a retention vote.

We are in the midst of a disheartening season of national politics, absolutely unprecedented in its disregard of facts, reliance on vicious personal attacks, and outrageous revelations. Many people are understandably taking a respite from Facebook and other social media as our newsfeeds have become poisoned by a level of mean-spiritedness that threatens to destroy longstanding friendships and family relationships built over a lifetime of shared experiences. Opportunities for reasonable or respectful discussion and reflection, the bedrock of our American democracy, are under assault from a political culture and a news cycle, which reward the candidate that yells louder or proves more adept at distortion and manipulation. Common human decency, respect for the rule of law, and a sense of our shared values as Americans are all casualties, sacrificed to the false god of extreme partisanship and a lack of critical thinking. It is not hyperbole to simply state that our civic discourse and the orderly political process by which we self-govern is at risk.

To safeguard against just such a day, the wise framers of the Alaska state constitution set aside the state judiciary to be an independent, non-political and co-equal branch of government, operating on the principles of judicial restraint and faithful adherence to the law. Unlike some other states, the Alaska Constitution set up a merit-based and non-political judicial selection and court operation to protect our religious and civic freedoms, as well as our constitutional rights and liberties from interference or backroom deals by special interests and imperfect politicians.

The first and most sacred duty of a Supreme Court justice is to rule based upon the facts of the law and the Constitution of the great state of Alaska, and to not be swayed by political pressures and campaigns which will come and go. Only in this way, whether we are Democrat, Republican, independent, non-partisan, Libertarian, Green, regardless of faith tradition, can we be sure that justice in Alaska will be fair and impartial, regardless of which party or politician is currently in office.

The current campaign to deny retention to Alaska Supreme Court justices Joel Bolger and Peter Maassen is a blatant and manipulative attempt to impose the narrow view of the few, at the expenses of the solid foundation of the law and the fairness and impartiality of the constitution.

As faith leaders from a variety of different churches and perspectives, we believe that it is time to reclaim the center, resist the invitation from extremists to politicize our courts, and to defend the traditional framework of an impartial Alaska judiciary. We urge all Alaskans to vote to retain justices Joel Bolger and Peter Maassen on November 8th.

The Rev. Michael Burke

The Rev. Julia Seymour

The Rev. Matt Schultz

The Rev. Martin Eldred

The views of Rev. Burke are his own, and do not necessarily reflect those of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, where he serves as Senior Pastor and Rector. The views of Rev. Seymour are her own, and do not necessarily reflect those of Lutheran Church of Hope, where she serves as Pastor. The views of Rev. Matt Schultz are his own, and do not necessarily reflect those of First Presbyterian Church, where he serves as Pastor. The views of Rev. Martin Eldred are his own, and do not necessarily reflect those of Joy Lutheran Church, where he serves as Pastor.