The religious right will be forever indebted to Donald Trump for turning the Supreme Court into a conservative’s idea of judicial heaven. The initial qualms about Trump’s choice of Brett Kavanaugh to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy have given way to hosannas, and not just metaphorically speaking.
But the adoration also carries a threat: dissent at your own risk.
Two religious right groups, Liberty Counsel and Faith & Action, held a prayer session last week for Kavanaugh. While the nominee traditionally abstains from attending these types of events, the groups wanted to give “pastoral support for a family undergoing a unique ordeal at this time in American history.”
The event was billed as non-partisan and apolitical, which doesn’t pass a laugh test. Liberty Counsel is the legal group that has been pushing hard for religious freedom exemptions to civil rights law.
It has been challenging LGBTQ rights in courts for more than two decades, having filed a brief with the Supreme Court in 1994 to uphold sodomy laws and right through to an ongoing battle against marriage equality. No wonder the Southern Poverty Law Center designated Liberty Counsel a hate group.
Faith & Action is a Christian right group that directly ministers to top-level officials in Washington. In the past, it has held prayer sessions for other Supreme Court nominees, including Sonia Sotomayer.
However, as with other organizations, Faith & Action is hitching its wagon to Trump. Just last month, the organization threw its president and founder, Rob Schenck overboard for heresy despite his impeccable religious right credentials.
Schenck’s sin is his most recent book, in which he argues that evangelicals have forsaken their principles for political power. The religious right made a deal with “this ungodly character with massive flaws so we can get what he’s giving us. We did a deal with Donald Trump. We sold our principles if not our souls to get a laundry list of promises.”
Faith & Action says that Schenck’s statements “reflect neither the values nor the mission of Faith and Action. At this point, Rob speaks only for himself and not for this ministry.” His departure was “effective immediately.”
Schenck joins the list of evangelicals who have been deemed persona non grata because they dared to question the religious right’s complete surrender to Trump.
So it’s not surprising that the “nonpartisan, apolitical” prayer session started with an address from Liberty Counsel’s president, Mat Staver. “As Christians, we must continue to make a spiritual imprint on this country,” Staver said. As long as Trump is president, they’re likely to succeed.