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Pickering: Promote reconciliation

U.S. District Judge Charles Pickering at the Kiwanis prayer breakfast this morning. (Melanie Duncan ThortisThe Vicksburg Post)

[5/18/04]The federal judge accused of “glaring racial insensitivity” by a member of the U.S. Senate told people in Vicksburg this morning to put their faith in action by, among other things, promoting racial reconciliation.

Judge Charles Pickering of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals was the guest speaker at this morning’s Community Prayer Breakfast at the Vicksburg Convention Center.

The Laurel native, at the center of a years-long confirmation struggle for promotion from district judge, is serving on a recess appointment made by President Bush in January.

The Senate Judiciary Committee rejected his nomination by one vote, with Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., among leading detractors. Schumer said Pickering’s involvement in a cross-burning case proved he was guilty of “glaring racial insensitivity.”

Paid attendance for this morning’s event was about 175, the club’s Donna Osburn said.

“Live your religion,” those present heard Pickering say. “People are not interested in what you and I have got to say. They are interested in how we live our life.”

Pickering, a U.S. district court judge since 1990, said the nation depends on people of faith living their faith.

“Notice that our founding fathers openly spoke of and recognized a creator, a higher being,” he said.

While the Declaration’s words contained an inherent contradiction, they were destined to lead to the eventual extension of the rights of citizenship, he said.

“Women did not have the rights that men have today,” he said. “They could not sit on juries. They could not vote. And their property rights were limited. And two-fifths of the population was still in slavery.

“No, America was not perfect then, and America’s not perfect now. But those seeds were planted that inevitably led to the freeing of slaves and the granting of additional rights to women.”

Changes in moral philosophy, especially around the 1960s, have contributed to some undesirable results, including the breakdown of families and an increase in violence among young people, Pickering said.

“God is no respecter of person,” Pickering said. “He loves us all equally, but it’s a pragmatic necessity that by 2050 there will be no majority population in the United States. We will all be a minority and if we do not find ways to dialogue and solve in a constructive and positive manner differences, then our future will be at risk.”

Pickering challenged his audience to love their fellow man, to support good education, to promote better racial unity and to be generous to those less fortunate.

“I would challenge you to promote better race relations,” he said. “And that will not happen if you do not make a willful, conscious effort and a determination to do so. We all get out of our comfort zone when we get into trying to promote better race relations. It’s the moral and the right thing to do.”

While Pickering had numerous, vocal detractors after his nomination, including U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., he had many supporters who praised his record as an exemplary citizen, attorney and judge. Included were Charles Evers, brother of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, then-Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, a Democrat, and black and Jewish leaders from Jones and Lauderdale counties.