Wednesday, October 20, 2004
On this day:

Birmingham News Lashes Out at Judge Tom Parker

In an editorial today, the Birmingham News questions Tom Parker's judgment for meeting with leaders of two extremist organizations. Parker is running for a seat on the Alabama Supreme Court. The entire News editorial is posted below:
If Tom Parker, private citizen, wants to associate with leaders of organizations identified by a civil rights law center as hate groups and to attend a commemoration for the founder of the Ku Klux Klan, that's Parker's decision.

But when Tom Parker, a candidate for the Alabama Supreme Court, can't understand what's wrong with those actions, and why some people might be offended by them, then he's clearly demonstrating a lack of judgment that shouldn't be missing in somebody who wants to be one of the most powerful judges in the state.

Any person who desires an honored place on the state's highest court must, at the very least, demonstrate reasonable temperament and acceptable judgment. He must fully comprehend that he represents all citizens of Alabama, and that his actions in public reflect that judgment. Parker, however, had his photograph taken with two men who are directly involved in what the Montgomery-based Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Report calls hate groups. He was asked to be the speaker at the birthday celebration for the KKK founder. Parker passed out Confederate flags at the funeral of the woman who was believed to be the last widow of a Confederate veteran.

A reasonable person might wonder whether Parker, as a Supreme Court justice, could be fair to all if he's hanging around with people associated with white supremacy groups.

Celebrating Southern heritage - as long as the celebrating doesn't include glorifying the institutions of slavery, white supremacy and racism - is one thing. Attending a birthday party for the founder of the KKK and being cheerfully photographed with men directly associated with known hate groups is quite another.

Parker, however, turned defensive and said he doesn't consider his actions inappropriate. That says as much about Parker's judgment as anything.

It seems to me that there are legitimate reasons to question Judge Parker's actions to the extent that they raise questions about his judicial philosophy and temperament. The News editorial succeeds in that respect. Unfortunately, it accepts without question the SPLC's characterization of the two groups in question as "hate groups." SPLC Chairman Morris Dees has certainly built an industry out of throwing around that epithet, but reputable news organizations should direct a little more scrutiny his way before lending unearned credibility to the derisive labels promulgated by his organization.