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Wisconsin Supreme Court candidates attended right-wing Christian law school

Both Jennifer Dorow and Dan Kelly attended Regent University, a law school founded by Christian nationalist Pat Robertson.

By Emily Singer - February 16, 2023
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From left, Wisconsin state Supreme Court candidates Jennifer Dorow, Dan Kelly, Everett Mitchell, and Janet Protasiewicz participate in a candidate forum at Monona Terrace in Madison on Jan. 9, 2023.
FILE - From left, Wisconsin state Supreme Court candidates Waukesha County Judge Jennifer Dorow, former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Dan Kelly, Dane County Judge Everett Mitchell, and Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz participate in a candidate forum at Monona Terrace in Madison, Wis. Monday, Jan. 9, 2023. The winner of the April 4 election will determine whether the court remains under control of conservative justices or flips to a liberal majority. (John Hart/Wisconsin State Journal via AP, File)

The two conservatives vying for an open seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court are both graduates of the Regent University School of Law, which seeks to create “Christ-centered attorneys” who have a “Christian worldview of law,” according to the school’s dean.

Jennifer Dorow graduated from Regent in 1996, and Daniel Kelly earned his J.D. from the school in 1991. Kelly began studying at Regent when it was still called the Christian Broadcasting Network School of Law, named after the media company owned by Regent’s founder and current chancellor and CEO, televangelist Pat Robertson.

“Regent Law is committed to faith-law integration and has woven it into our curriculum,” the school says on its website. It also says “Professors tie relevant biblical principles into class” and that the school “focuses on a Christian worldview of law.”

The school — which is in a five-way tie for the lowest ranked law school in the U.S. News and World Report rankings — has seen a fair amount of controversy.

In 1994, an issue of the Law Review contained an article that argued it was justifiable to murder an abortion doctor. The article had been set to be published right after an abortion doctor was shot to death in Pensacola, Florida, but the author withdrew it.

And in 2021, a Regent law student said in a federal lawsuit that she had been threatened with expulsion if she brought her girlfriend to school and told by teachers that she “would go to hell for being a lesbian.”

A 2007 Boston Globe article about a Regent graduate who was accused of “inappropriately consider[ing] political and ideological affiliations” when hiring US attorneys, describes how a constitutional law class at the school began with a discussion about preserving Christian values.

And in a 1995 article in the Baltimore Sun, law professors at other universities questioned the appropriateness of tying the law to Christianity.

“We’re obviously very interested in the moral bases of the law,” said the late Rep. Robert F. Drinan, who served as a law professor at Georgetown University, a Jesuit college. “But we don’t drag God into it. We don’t indoctrinate. That’s bad pedagogy.”

Robertson remains a major figure at the school, despite his long history of offensive comments. For example, Robertson agreed with the opinion of a guest who blamed “pagans,” “abortionists,” “feminists,” and “gays and lesbians” for the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001; said Islam is “not a religion“; and called Muslims “satanic.”

At a chancellor’s forum at the school in September 2022, Robertson espoused Christian nationalist rhetoric, the belief that the United States is a Christian nation.

“Our Constitution was created for a free and moral society, but we’ve forgotten God and that is hurting our nation,” Robertson said at the event.

Both Dorow and Kelly have come out against same-sex marriage and are against abortion rights, two things also opposed by Regent University. The Regent student handbook prohibits “homosexual conduct” and bans its students from having abortions, saying:

Regent affirms the Christian belief that all individuals are created by God in His image. Regent accordingly believes as a matter of Christian conviction that no procedures should be performed or medicines taken to terminate a pregnancy and take the life of an unborn child (such procedures are referred to herein as abortions), except in extraordinary circumstances where other Biblical, moral principles prevail, such as where medically necessary to preserve the life of the mother. Regent’s beliefs also prohibit paying for or otherwise facilitating such procedures.

In 2016, Dorow called Lawrence v. Texas, the decision that struck down Texas’ anti-sodomy law, the “worst” of all decisions handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court. Dorow said that “a majority of the court went well beyond the four corners of the U.S. Constitution to declare a new constitutional right,” which she lamented eventually helped pave the way for Massachusetts to legalize same-sex marriage. Dorow also supported the Supreme Court decision in June 2022 that struck down Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that had affirmed the constitutional right to an abortion before fetal viability in the United States.

In an application for an appointment to the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 2016, Kelly said the Supreme Court’s ruling affirming same-sex couples’ right to marry “will eventually rob the institution of marriage of any discernible meaning.”

“In the name of fairness, we will, in time, recognize other nontraditional arrangements as ‘marriages,’ and you will — coerced by law if necessary — dignify them too,” Kelly wrote, according to the Associated Press. “Finally, when marriage eventually means anything imaginable, we will find it means nothing at all. All because of an unruly fairness that aspired to the office of justice itself.”

Kelly is supported by the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, which endorsed him and said to elect him is to “take a stand against pro-abortion extremism.”

Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz, one of the two liberal candidates running for the open Supreme Court seat, told Up North News on Monday that Dorow’s and Kelly’s education at Regent University is concerning.

“The fact that they both went to Regent University is a little bit of a peculiar coincidence to me, quite frankly,” Protasiewicz said. “That you would have two people who went to this particular university … I don’t know why someone would choose to go there unless you have views that really align with the views [of] Pat Robertson. So obviously, the fact that the two of them went to Regent University obviously raises some red flags for me.”

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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