‘Devine Vision’ — The Religiosity Of A Likely Texas Supreme Court Justice

Ted Cruz may be the most outspoken Tea Party victor in Texas’s recent primary elections, but he’s not the lone far-right candidate the electorate promoted over an Austin-backed incumbent. Judge John Devine, a Tea Party-backed justice out of Houston, recently knocked off sitting GOP Supreme Court Justice David Medina, who’d received endorsements from Gov. Rick Perry (R) and nearly two dozen members of the Texas legislature. Garnering 53.3 percent of the vote, Devine’s victory appeared a sharp referendum on Medina’s six-year career on the state’s high court, which hasn’t had a single Democratic justice since 1999.Indeed, as there are no Democratic candidates set to challenge him for the Supreme Court position, Devine — a former district judge supported by ultra-conservative groups like the Eagle Forum and the Liberty Institute — is all but set to be the newest member of the state’s increasingly conservative court. This is Devine’s first victory on a state-wide stage, having lost over a half-dozen elections for assorted positions as both a state representative and member of Congress.

However, in a state that President Obama claims will soon be within Democratic reach, Devine’s ascendancy is a notable rightward push.

Devine makes no effort to hide his effusive religiosity, having run for a judgeship in 1995 on a platform of placing Christianity back in the state government, a position he repeated in his recent campaign. Offering his constituents a “Devine Vision,” the could-be justice sells his credentials as the “10 Commandments Judge,” referencing a case in which, as a member of the Harris County bench, Devine struck down a lawsuit seeking to remove a painting of the Ten Commandments hanging in his courtroom. Devine, who proudly claims an arrest record of over three dozen times for protesting outside abortion clinics in Austin and Corpus Christi, also returned a Bible to a monument outside his courtroom in 1995. A video on Devine’s website cites biblical references, as well as Devine’s devotion to “faith, family, and our future.”

Furthermore, in an interview posted on Texas GOP Vote, Texas District Court Judge Scott Link said that Devine had, in a lunch the previous August, confided to Link and Houston attorney Frank Harmon that he was running against Medina, who is Hispanic, not simply because he said “he needed a job,” but because he could “beat somebody with a Mexican name.” Devine denies such a claim, rebutting that Link attempted to bribe him. Harmon, however, backed up Link’s statement, adding that Devine cited the Texas electorate’s unwillingness to nominate a Hispanic candidate.

As it is, there’s little hard proof as to what Devine either did or didn’t say, but it’s yet another cause for concern for members of the Texas judicial branch. As Judge Jerry Smith wrote during the rulings on the final biblical-monument rulings in 2006, “[t]his formerly unknown principle of constitutional law, which perhaps should be crowned the ‘Principle of Devine Intervention,’ has serious doctrinal and practical consequences.” As an ascendant member of the state’s highest court, Devine is set, come November, to purvey his ‘Devine Vision’ on the largest stage he’s yet seen, and the largest platform Texas has to offer.

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