Did American exceptionalism survive Trump?

Bloomsburg writer Mihir Sharma says that Americans shouldn’t get so uptight about apparent threats to their democracy.

Maybe sometimes we need an international voice to help us keep things in perspective. Here is a taste of Sharma’s piece, “World shouldn’t laugh at U.S. too soon“:

Remember: Donald Trump was impeached once and might be again. He has been repudiated by several influential leaders of his own party. He has lost re-election and all his attempts to overturn the result have failed. His party has been rewarded for its embrace of populism with the loss of not just the White House but also of both chambers of the legislature. And Trump himself has been cornered into conceding defeat. That is what you might objectively call a drubbing.

Such a drubbing is not, I hasten to assure you, the usual result of electing a populist. Generally, such leaders ensconce themselves comfortably in power and their victory margins seem mysteriously to grow with each election. There are far too many places where voting is always free but rarely fair, and where democratic despots seem never to be deposed. I wonder how we can even drum up the enthusiasm to mock America, which is emphatically and demonstrably not one of those countries.

I don’t want to minimize the damage that Trump could and did do to America. And it is an open question whether another four years in power would have left the U.S. completely incapable of resisting his corrupting influence. Yet, in comparison to other nations — from Russia to Turkey, Hungary to India — American institutions have demonstrated their value and resilience. Liberal democracies are only as robust as their institutions are independent and their officers are honest. And, because institutions and officials in the U.S. preserved their integrity, Trump was forced to fight a free and fair election — and will have to leave after he convincingly lost it.

In America, judges — even those appointed by Trump — threw out dozens of frivolous court cases. That’s what an independent judiciary does and it is also why populists in places such as Poland and India are reducing judges’ freedom to maneuver.

In America, even Republican officials such as Georgia’s governor and secretary of state stood up to their party’s leader, bluntly refusing to follow his bidding. I’m struggling to imagine an equivalent phone call between, say, Vladimir Putin and a provincial leader from United Russia.

And in America, an adversarial media actually reported on Trump’s corruption in power, as well as his attempts to retain it illegally. We were told in great detail about the colossal ineptitude of his legal team and the poverty of their arguments. In India, the media — even those so adept with puns — would never present the case for ruling-party venality and ineptitude as clearly.

Face it, the death of American exceptionalism has been greatly exaggerated. 

Read the entire piece here.

You don’t congratulate someone who just robbed a bank (and other court evangelical news)

Yesterday Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell finally acknowledged that Joe Biden was the “President-elect of the United States of America. He also warned GOP senators to stop contesting the election.

Meanwhile, House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy has not said a word.

Trump continues to raise millions on his election fraud claims through his Trump Make America Great Again Committee. 75% of the money he raises can be used for his own political activity, including rallies, travel, and supporting other candidates. In other words, Trump is is building the infrastructure of a shadow presidency.

So what are the court evangelicals saying today?

The Liberty University Falkirk Center crowd is still fighting:

Interesting tweet from a Trump-supporting “think tank.” Truth?:

So far the Falkirk Center has yet to acknowledge Joe Biden as President-elect.

Liberty University Falkirk Center fellow Jenna Ellis is not going down without a fight:

But she also seems to have been less than truthful about how things ended at a previous job.

Ellis also retweeted Trump. “Tremendous evidence”:

She also retweeted Hershel Walker:

And of course she is quoting scripture:

Charlie Kirk criticized Mitch McConnell for congratulating Joe Biden:

In this tweet, Kirk claims to care about “unity & healing”:

More on “congratulating” Joe Biden:

And in other court evangelical news:

Lance Wallnau believes Mitch McConnell is now part of the “deep state.” He says that God is doing an “autopsy” on this election and if evangelicals keep praying we will all see that Trump won.

Court evangelical journalist David Brody interviewed Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, the author of the recently dismissed Texas voter fraud lawsuit.

Jim Garlow is still holding “election integrity” prayer meetings.

Ralph Reed is rallying pastors in Georgia:

Tony Perkins is also focused on Georgia:

The people have spoken. The Electoral College voted. Who will be the first court evangelical to acknowledge publicly that Joe Biden is the next President of the United States?

Joe Biden is president-elect. What are the court evangelicals saying?

Yesterday the Electoral College made it official. Joe Biden is President-Elect of the United States.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump is still tweeting about election fraud:

So now that the election is in the books, what are the court evangelicals saying? (Let’s also remember that some of these court evangelicals are coming off a very “big” weekend in Washington D.C.)

We begin by checking-in on the Liberty University Falkirk Center gang. They are the subject of a new Politico investigation.

Saturday afternoon’s Jericho March looked like an extension of Eric Metaxas’s radio program. He may be angling for a late-night talk show gig on Newsmax.

Yesterday he did his radio show from a hotel room in Washington D.C. because he was going to Mike Pence’s Christmas party. The Liberty University Falkirk Center fellow jokingly called the party a “super-spreader” event. Not funny.

Metaxas spent close to twenty minutes talking about his “music video and his role in the Jericho March on Saturday. We learned that the video’s lyrics were written by John Smirak, a writer at court evangelical James Robison’s blog The Stream. Metaxas described the video as both “funny” and “speaking the truth.”

Falkirk Center fellow Jenna Ellis joined her Center colleague Sebastian Gorka on his radio show. Ellis said that the Supreme Court was wrong in their 9-0 decision to throw out the Texas election fraud case. Yes, you read that correctly. Jenna Ellis told the United States Supreme Court that it does not know how to interpret the Constitution.

She also said Congress will be engaging in a “false certification” on January 6 when it meets to certify the results of yesterday’s Electoral College vote. Ellis told a group of people she describes as “Trump delegates” to storm Washington D.C. and demand that their votes be counted.

Ellis remains optimistic:

And she is “completely dedicated to God and Country”:

Charlie Kirk, the co-founder of Liberty University’s Falkirk Center, still doesn’t believe Biden won:

Lance Wallnau, who spoke on Saturday at the Jericho March, is attacking Beth Moore. But hey, at least he still thinks she is an “evangelical.” 🙂

“WIDE OPEN”:

Wallnau also has opinions on the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Texas case. Yesterday, while wandering around Washington D.C. with his daughter, he blamed the Court’s refusal to take the case on Catholic justices. If Trump had appointed evangelical justices who were “time-tested spiritual warriors” things would have been different. I knew it would only be a matter of time before evangelicals played the anti-Catholic card on Kavanaugh, Roberts, and Barrett.

Over 250,000 people watched Wallnau’s video.

Here is Jack Hibbs yesterday on his Facebook page: “Turn off Fox News and CNN people because they’re not telling you the whole truth regarding today’s electoral college.” He then embedded this tweet from a former New York City police commissioner and convicted felon:

After the Supreme Court threw out the Texas lawsuit on Friday, Allen West, the Chairman of the Republican Party of Texas, wrote:

The Supreme Court, in tossing the Texas lawsuit that was joined by seventeen states and 106 US congressman, has decreed that a state can take unconstitutional actions and violate its own election law. Resulting in damaging effects on other states that abide by the law, while the guilty state suffers no consequences. This decision establishes a precedent that says states can violate the US constitution and not be held accountable. This decision will have far-reaching ramifications for the future of our constitutional republic. Perhaps law-abiding states should bond together and form a Union of states that will abide by the constitution.”

Court evangelical Tony Perkins agreed with West’s call for a secession movement:

What was Paula White praying for last night?

Franklin Graham seems resigned to a Biden victory:

I would love to know what Johnny would say to Franklin today:

GOP nihilism

“It is particularly astonishing that 17 of the House signatories were elected by voters in the states whose election results was seeking to invalidate.”

Here is the editorial board of The New York Times.

What is left to say about a political party that would throw out millions of votes?

The substance of a lawsuit filed by the State of Texas, and backed by more than 17 other states, would be laughable were it not so dangerous. Texas’ attorney general, Ken Paxton — who is under indictment for securities fraud — asked the Supreme Court to overturn the results of the presidential election in four other states. As a legal matter, this is the rough equivalent of objecting on the grounds that the other side is winning. As political rhetoric, however, it is incendiary.

The Supreme Court was right to toss out the lawsuit. But that the Republican Party tried and failed doesn’t make the attempt any less odious. There are a lot of Republican leaders who, the history books will record, wanted it to succeed.

What makes this entire episode so sad is that the nation needs a vibrant, honest, patriotic opposition party. A party that argues in good faith to win more votes the next time around. Many Republicans, particularly at the state and local level, stood tall and proud against the worst instincts of the national party.

The health of a democracy rests on public confidence that elections are free and fair. Questioning the integrity of an election is a matter of the utmost seriousness. By doing so without offering any evidence, Mr. Paxton and his collaborators have disgraced themselves. Attorneys general are sworn to uphold the rule of law.

What is left to say about a political party that would throw out millions of votes?

The substance of a lawsuit filed by the State of Texas, and backed by more than 17 other states, would be laughable were it not so dangerous. Texas’ attorney general, Ken Paxton — who is under indictment for securities fraud — asked the Supreme Court to overturn the results of the presidential election in four other states. As a legal matter, this is the rough equivalent of objecting on the grounds that the other side is winning. As political rhetoric, however, it is incendiary.

The Supreme Court was right to toss out the lawsuit. But that the Republican Party tried and failed doesn’t make the attempt any less odious. There are a lot of Republican leaders who, the history books will record, wanted it to succeed.

What makes this entire episode so sad is that the nation needs a vibrant, honest, patriotic opposition party. A party that argues in good faith to win more votes the next time around. Many Republicans, particularly at the state and local level, stood tall and proud against the worst instincts of the national party.

The health of a democracy rests on public confidence that elections are free and fair. Questioning the integrity of an election is a matter of the utmost seriousness. By doing so without offering any evidence, Mr. Paxton and his collaborators have disgraced themselves. Attorneys general are sworn to uphold the rule of law.

It is particularly astonishing that 17 of the House signatories were elected by voters in the states whose election results Texas was seeking to invalidate. They signed a letter directly challenging the legitimacy of their own victories and the integrity of their own states’ elections.

Read the entire editorial here.

The court evangelicals continue to stand by Trump’s election fraud claims

Yesterday COVID-19 cases in the United States topped the 15 million mark. One of those cases is Trump election fraud lawyer and court evangelical Jenna Ellis.

Joe Biden introduced his public health team. Donald Trump gave a COVID press conference, took credit for the COVID vaccine, and claimed victory over the virus. And then he claimed that Democrats stole the 2020 presidential election.

Trump is still fighting what he believes to be election fraud. Yesterday the Supreme Court refused to hear a last-minute Pennsylvania GOP request to overturn the commonwealth’s election results. The Supreme Court rejected the request in one sentence: “The application for injunctive relief presented to Justice Alito and by him referred to the Court was denied.” There was no dissent. This means that Alito, Thomas, Roberts, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Coney Barrett all rejected the application. Just a reminder: Trump nominated Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Coney Barrett.

Today Donald Trump retweeted this:

I have no idea what this tweet means in light of yesterday’s Supreme Court’s decision.

So what are Trump’s most loyal evangelical followers–the court evangelicals–saying:

Biden misspoke today and quickly correct himself. That is not good enough for Charlie Kirk, founder of Liberty University’s Falkirk Center:

Charlie is willing to go down with the ship. He is going to build the rest of his career on the foundation of Trumpism:

Here is Ryan Helfenbein, the director of the Liberty University Falkirk Center:

The Founding Fathers said that if the people got too much liberty they would cease to sacrifice for the common good of the nation and the republic would collapse.

Court evangelical journalist David Brody interviewed GOP national spokesperson Liz Harrington on his program “Just the News.”

Jim Garlow is still holding his “election integrity” prayer meetings.

Yesterday Eric Metaxas spent about 20 minutes talking about the online sale of his books. Then he moved into a segment on the upcoming Washington D.C. Jericho March on December 12. Pro-Trump evangelicals will march seven times around the U.S. Capitol Building and blow a shofar–just like the Israelites did with the city of Jericho in the Old Testament book of Joshua, chapter six. Metaxas believes that America experienced “every kind of possible fraud” in this election. He believes he is a modern-day Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He claims God will judge everyone who does not speak-up against election fraud.

Interesting tweet from Trump’s spiritual adviser:

Paula retweeted Trump press secretary Kayleigh McEnany yesterday:

James Dobson is praying for a GOP win in Georgia:

Franklin Graham is tweeting an election fraud piece from the Alt-right Breitbart News. He believes “forces of evil” are at work:

Friday morning court evangelical roundup

It was another crazy day in Trump land. Yesterday the news was focused on Trump’s potential pardons. There is speculation that he is preparing pardons for his children before they have been convicted of any crimes. Some say Trump may even try to pardon himself. Last night on CNN, journalist Bob Woodward told the story of Gerald Ford’s habit of carrying a portion of the text of Burdick v. United States in his wallet. Ford argued, based on this Supreme Court decision, that the acceptance of a pardon (in this case Richard Nixon) is the equivalent of a confession of guilt.

Trump’s election fraud claims reached a new level of craziness yesterday when he delivered a 45-minute video speech filled with unsubstantiated claims. Some cable networks refused to show the video because it was so full of lies. The Trump team released the video on the same day that William Barr’s Department of Justice said that there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud.

Trump will be gone on January 20, 2021, but a lot of us are wondering how much damage he will do between now and then. When Biden takes office on Inauguration Day, the court evangelical phenomenon will end. But as of today, many of Trump’s most ardent evangelical supporters are still fighting. Let’s check in:

The Falkirk Center at Liberty University remains the evangelical epicenter of election fraud conspiracy theories.

Yesterday Falkirk Center fellow Eric Metaxas talked with fellow conspiracy theorist Dinesh D’Souza. As I wrote yesterday, Metaxas seems to think he is a modern-day William Wilberforce or Dietrich Bonhoeffer (the subject of his two most well-known biographies). The only problem with this analogy is that slavery (in the case of Wilberforce) and Nazism (in the case of Bonhoeffer) were real evils.

Religion News Service has a piece on Metaxas titled “How Eric Metaxas went from Trump despiser to true believer.” It includes quotes from Paul Glader, Phil Vischer (of Veggie Tales fame), David Dark, and David French. We learn about Metaxas’s forthcoming autobiography and his desire to host a Dick Cavett-like talk show on FOX.

Metaxas’s fellow Falkirk Center spokeperson, Trump attorney Jenna Ellis, is the subject of a pretty scathing New York Times article. Here is a taste of Jeremy Peter’s and Alan Feuer”s reporting:

But a review of her professional history, as well as interviews with more than a half-dozen lawyers who have worked with her, show that Ms. Ellis, 36, is not the seasoned constitutional law expert she plays on TV.

In many ways, that makes her ideal for the role she has now fashioned for herself: She is a star player in the president’s theater of grievance and denial whose lack of relevant experience with the legal questions at hand has had no apparent bearing on her ability to present herself as someone of great authority.

Since she graduated law school in 2011, nothing in her record in the courtroom — limited mostly to appearances in state court as a prosecutor or as counsel for clients charged with assault, prostitution, theft and domestic abuse — shows any time spent litigating election law cases.

She holds herself out as an expert on the Constitution based on her self-published book and her teaching of pre-law classes to undergraduates. She has never appeared in federal district or circuit court, where most constitutional matters are considered, according to national databases of federal cases, and does not appear to have played a major role in any cases beyond her criminal and civil work in Colorado.

Read the rest here.

Ellis responded to the article, including quotes included in the story from former “jealous” colleagues:

Falkirk Center co-founder Charlie Kirk:

Another Liberty University Falkirk Center spokesperson, Sebastian Gorka, believes that Trump provided “evidence” of fraud during his video speech yesterday:

In other court evangelical news:

Lance Wallnau may just have more followers than all the Liberty University Falkirk Center spokespeople combined. The other day he was on a Kenneth Copeland program with a few other self-professed prophets:

Tony Perkins is praising evangelical turnout for Donald Trump. Did anyone expect anything different? Perkins is also talking to a Grove City College professor on apparent voter fraud in Pennsylvania.

What should we make of today’s Supreme Court decision on religious liberty in New York?

Today the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that the state of New York cannot limit attendance in houses of worship.

Here is NPR:

Gorsuch filed an unusually acerbic concurring opinion, blasting not only Governor Cuomo but also Chief Justice Roberts for his earlier opinion in the California and Nevada cases.

Referring to the more lax rules for New York retailers, Gorsuch opined that “at least according to Governor Cuomo, it may be unsafe to go to church, but it is always fine to pick up another bottle of wine, shop for a new bike, or spend the afternoon exploring your distal points and meridians,” a reference to acupuncture being unregulated.

And when it came to Roberts, Gorsuch spent several pages accusing him of “rewriting history” in his dissenting opinion on Wednesday and his earlier opinions in the California and Nevada cases.

“In the end,” said Gorsuch, while Roberts and the other dissenters may wish to “stay out of the way” and let state officials and experts deal with the crisis of a pandemic, “we may not shelter in place where the Constitution is under attack.” There is, he wrote, “no world in which the Constitution tolerates color-coded executive edicts that reopen liquor stores and bike shops but shutter churches, synagogues, and mosques.”

Roberts replied with a slap-down of his own. Quoting from Gorsuch’s acid dismissal of the dissenters’ views, the Chief Justice said he did not regard his dissenting colleagues with such venom: “They simply view the matter differently after careful study and reflecting their best efforts to fulfill their responsibility under the Constitution.”

As to Gorsuch’s concurrence, which, as Roberts put it, “takes aim at my [earlier] concurring opinion,” Gorsuch had engaged in such overkill that he spent “three pages” criticizing one sentence.

And “what did that sentence say?” asked Roberts. “Only that our Constitution principally entrusts the safety and health of the people to the politically accountable officials of the states to guard and protect.”

Those words, said Roberts, “should be uncontroversial, and the [Gorsuch] concurrence must reach beyond the words themselves to find the target it is looking for.”

Read the entire piece here.

Several conservative evangelicals see this as a major victory for religious liberty and the church. For example, here is the Trump-voting president of the Evangelical Theological Society:

Not surprising. Mohler, at heart, is a culture warrior. (Although it is interesting to see him defending Catholicism. I guess even false religions have a right to religious liberty).

I am coming late to this today because I am eating turkey and hanging out with the family. So I will just post some tweets from people who seem to understand what this is really about.

A church is not a bike shop or a wine story. Sorry Neil Gorsuch:

Scott Coley nails it:

This is what Christian thinking looks like on this matter. (As opposed to First Amendment thinking):

Sotomayor’s decision seems Christian to me:

David Dark is right. But at least Trump delivered on the Supreme Court for Al Mohler.

UPDATE (November 27, 2020 at 12:06PM): John Inazu, a Washington University law professor and author of Confident Pluralism, has weighed-in on the case at Ed Stetezer’s blog at Christianity Today.

Thoughts on Samuel Alito’s recent speech to the Federalist Society

Some say Supreme Court justice Samuel Alito got too political in his recent speech to the Federalist Society. Others say his speech merely repeated arguments he has made in formal Supreme Court decisions.

Both sides of this debate are correct.

Watch:

Several of you have asked me to comment on the speech. So here goes:

First, Alito’s lecture defends free and open public discourse. He wants a country in which we respect “rational, civil speech on important subjects even if we do not agree with what the speaker has to say.” I appreciate Alito’s use of the word “rational” here. We should respect free speech that is based on facts, truth, and good science. This kind of speech is essential to the health of the republic, but we are not doing a very good job at supporting it. (Again, I point you to the statement on free speech published recently at Harper’s).

Second, Alito is correct to suggest that “tolerance for opposing views” is in “short supply” in the “broader academic community.” I completely agree with this. Some of us experienced this intolerance over the summer when we dared to suggest that the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic (SHEAR) mishandled a paper presentation by historian Daniel Feller.

Third, Alito argues that the pandemic has “resulted in previously unimaginable restrictions on individual liberty.” It is hard to argue with this as a statement of fact. We have had to curb our liberties in order to stay safe. But unlike Alito, I do not see a major problem with this. I think one can make a strong case from American history that there are times when we have placed duty over liberty and the common good over individual rights. The pandemic is one of those cases.

Fourth, Alito takes a shot at the progressive commitment to “expertise.” He is especially upset with the way governors use executive power to enforce pandemic restrictions that reflect what the scientists (experts) are telling them. If I understand him correctly, he believes that legislative bodies, not governors, should make decisions about COVID-19 restrictions.

Fair enough. But in a pandemic like this one it seems as if governors, in consultation with scientific experts, should be the primary decision makers. I am going to sound like an elite founding father here, but I wonder if we really want legislative assemblies–the people– making decisions in a pandemic, especially if they are not in close contact with experts who know how to handle such situations. If some of these state legislatures got their way back in March and April 2020 it is likely that even more people would have died from this virus. I am thankful for the work of governors such as Andrew Cuomo, Gretchen Whitmer, Mike DeWine, Tom Wolf, and Phil Murphy who are leading their respective states through this major health crisis. Let’s remember that these governors are also elected officials.

Fifth, Alito is worried about the future of religious liberty in the United States. He is right to do so. Alito offers three cases that concern him: Little Sisters of the Poor vs. Pennsylvania; Stormans, Inc. v. Wiesman (Ralph’s Pharmacy); and Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission (Jack Philips).

The Little Sisters of the Poor should be allowed to do whatever they want to do with their healthcare plan. If they refuse to provide contraception to their employees because of deeply-held religious beliefs, they should be permitted to do so under the First Amendment.

I am also sympathetic to Alito’s position (and Clarence Thomas and John Roberts) in the Ralph’s Pharmacy case. If I owned a pharmacy I would have a moral objection, because of my pro-life beliefs, to selling morning-after pills.

What about the Masterpiece Cakeshop Case? (The Court defended cake maker Jack Philips with a 7-2 decision on narrow grounds that did not get to the heart of the real religious liberty issues at stake). For me there seems to be a difference between selling an abortifacient and baking a cake for a wedding. But I realize other Christians might think differently and I want to respect their right to do that.

All of Alito’s religious liberty arguments in his Federalist Society speech make sense to me. I appreciate how he understands these issues in the context of efforts to create a more “inclusive” or pluralist society. John Inazu’s Confident Pluralism is the best book I have read on the subject. In terms of legislation, I recommend taking a look at the Fairness for All Act.

Sixth, Alito connects his thoughts on COVID-19 restrictions to his thoughts on religious liberty issues. Over the last several months religious conservatives have complained that Nevada allowed casinos to stay open, but limited the number of people permitted in churches. I am once again with Alito here. Why were casinos privileged over churches? I would argue, contra John MacArthur, that both should have been closed or restricted.

Seventh, Alito argues that COVID-19 restrictions have curbed free speech. He predicts that anyone who says “marriage is a union between one man and one woman” will soon be labeled a bigot. I am not aware of cases where the free speech of someone who believes in traditional marriage has been threatened, but I am sure there are examples out there. (It is also unclear how Alito’s concerns about this issue are related to COVID-19). I hope Alito’s prediction here is wrong, but I don’t think it is.

It is worth noting that not all people who believe in traditional marriage are homophobic or oppose the legality of LGBTQ marriages. (In the same way, people can be pro-life on abortion and still care about women’s health or even oppose the overturning of Roe v. Wade). Most defenders of traditional marriage want society to respect the rights of institutions–churches and schools come immediately to mind–whose members have deeply-held religious views on the matter.

All of this makes me wonder if someone who upholds a traditional view of marriage could land could land a job at public or non-religious college or university today. Probably not. I also imagine that my general support of Alito in this post would eliminate me from consideration for such a position at a college or university. I made a similar suggestion in this 2016 piece at Aeon. But I digress…

In the end, I am persuaded by much, but not all, of what Alito had to say in this speech.

Less than a week to go. Let’s check in on the court evangelicals

Trump’s favorite evangelicals are making their closing arguments. Here are some of them:

Franklin Graham believes that God works through the United States Supreme Court. It is also worth noting that he is bragging here about attending a super-spreader event:

These two tweets from James Robison are pretty revealing:

Jentezen Franklin does not seem to understand that overturning Roe v. Wade will do little to end the “abortion agenda” in the United States.

As might be expected, Jack Graham is supporting Al Mohler’s argument for Trump:

“The most successful term of a President in my lifetime”:

Christianity Today actually gave Paula White space to make her argument for Trump. What are the chances that PR man Johnnie Moore wrote this piece?:

John Hagee believes that Amy Coney Barrett is a “righteous judge.” Perhaps he is confusing the nomination of Barret with what the Pslamist says in Psalm 7:1. and Psalm 9:4.

Tony Perkins wants us to believe that he supports Amy Coney Barrett because she holds a “proper understanding” of the Constitution. He could care less about this. It’s all about Coney’s previous statements on abortion and what he believes to be her willingness to “inject social policy issues into the court.”

They said something similar about every conservative appointment in the last forty years. We will see what happens:

Look and weep?. It sounds like Bauer just dropped a royal flush in a poker game:

Ralph Reed would prefer massive crowds that are not social distanced and not wearing masks. In other words, a Trump rally. Yes, Ralph Reed supports pro-life candidates.

Wayne Grudem is still at it.

Eric Metaxas is still talking about “the end of America as we know it.”

Jack Hibbs believes God answered his prayers:

This kid called John Piper a “fool.” Now he is lecturing more pastors:

Sadly, this all Jenna Ellis and the rest of the Falkirk Center crowd at Liberty University have left:

Supreme Court gives Pennsylvania a 3-day extension to count votes

John Roberts was once again the deciding vote, joining with the three liberal justices. Here is the Associated Press:

The Supreme Court will allow Pennsylvania to count ballots received up to three days after the election, rejecting a Republican plea.

The justices divided 4-4 Monday, an outcome that upholds a state Supreme Court ruling that allowed election officials to receive and count ballots until Nov. 6, even if they don’t have a clear postmark.

Republicans, including President Donald Trump’s campaign, have opposed such an extension, arguing that it violates federal law that sets Election Day as the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November and that such a decision constitutionally belongs to lawmakers, not the courts.

Chief Justice John Roberts joined with the three liberal justices to reject Pennsylvania Republicans’ call for the court to block the state court ruling.

Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas would have required the state to stop accepting absentee ballots when the polls close on Nov. 3.

There were no opinions accompanying the order, so it is impossible to say what motivated either group of justices.

The conservative justices have been reluctant to allow court-ordered changes to voting rules close to an election.

Read the rest here.

Why is the GOP rushing the Barrett confirmation? The answer is simple: the Democratic coalition is growing

Another great piece at The Atlantic by Ron Brownstein. I find him to be the most astute political analyst working today.

Here is a taste:

Nothing better explains the Republican rush to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court than the record crowds that thronged polling places for the first days of early voting this week in Georgia and Texas.

The historic number of Americans who stood in long lines to cast their ballot in cities from Atlanta to Houston symbolizes the diverse, urbanized Democratic coalition that will make it very difficult for the GOP to win majority support in elections through the 2020s. That hill will get only steeper as Millennials and Generation Z grow through the decade to become the largest generations in the electorate.

Every young conservative judge that the GOP has stacked onto the federal courts amounts to a sandbag against that rising demographic wave. Trump’s nominations to the Supreme Court of Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch, and Barrett—whom a slim majority of Republican senators appears determined to seat by Election Day—represent the capstone of that strategy. As the nation’s growing racial and religious diversity limits the GOP’s prospects, filling the courts with conservatives constitutes what the Princeton University historian Sean Wilentz calls “the right-wing firewall” against a country evolving electorally away from the party.

And this:

Jefferson’s irritation in the early 19th century may most closely resemble the frustration building among Democrats, as the GOP races to seat Barrett before an election that could provide Democrats with unified control of government, perhaps resoundingly. In the 1800 election, Jefferson ousted Adams, and his Democratic-Republican Party took the House and the Senate, beginning a quarter-century of complete political dominance. But in a long lame-duck session after their 1800 defeat, Adams’s Federalists passed legislation substantially expanding the number of federal judges. Adams, much like McConnell now, worked so tirelessly to fill those positions that Jefferson privately complained he had “crowded [them] in with whip & spur.” (Separately, Adams and the Senate rushed to confirm John Marshall as the Supreme Court’s chief justice after the Federalist in the job resigned weeks after Election Day.) Even “at 9 p.m. on the night of March 3, 1801, only three hours before officially leaving office, Adams was [still] busy signing commissions,” wrote James F. Simon in his book What Kind of Nation.

Notre Dame professors ask Amy Coney Barrett to “halt” the nomination process until after the election

Here is “An Open Letter to Judge Amy Coney Barrett From Your Notre Dame Colleagues“:

October 10, 2020

Dear Judge Barrett,

We write to you as fellow faculty members at the University of Notre Dame.

We congratulate you on your nomination to the United States Supreme Court. An appointment to the Court is the crowning achievement of a legal career and speaks to the commitments you have made throughout your life. And while we are not pundits, from what we read your confirmation is all but assured.

That is why it is vital that you issue a public statement calling for a halt to your nomination process until after the November presidential election.

We ask that you take this unprecedented step for three reasons.

First, voting for the next president is already underway. According to the United States Election Project (https://electproject.github.io/Early-Vote-2020G/index.html), more than seven million people have already cast their ballots, and millions more are likely to vote before election day. The rushed nature of your nomination process, which you certainly recognize as an exercise in raw power politics, may effectively deprive the American people of a voice in selecting the next Supreme Court justice. You are not, of course, responsible for the anti-democratic machinations driving your nomination. Nor are you complicit in the Republican hypocrisy of fast-tracking your nomination weeks before a presidential election when many of the same senators refused to grant Merrick Garland so much as a hearing a full year before the last election. However, you can refuse to be party to such maneuvers. We ask that you honor the democratic process and insist the hearings be put on hold until after the voters have made their choice. Following the election, your nomination would proceed, or not, in accordance with the wishes of the winning candidate. 

Next, the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dying wish was that her seat on the court remain open until a new president was installed. At your nomination ceremony at the White House, you praised Justice Ginsburg as “a woman of enormous talent and consequence, whose life of public service serves as an example to us all.” Your nomination just days after Ginsburg’s death was unseemly and a repudiation of her legacy. Given your admiration for Justice Ginsburg, we ask that you repair the injury to her memory by calling for a pause in the nomination until the next president is seated.

Finally, your nomination comes at a treacherous moment in the United States. Our politics are consumed by polarization, mistrust, and fevered conspiracy theories. Our country is shaken by pandemic and economic suffering. There is violence in the streets of American cities. The politics of your nomination, as you surely understand, will further inflame our civic wounds, undermine confidence in the court, and deepen the divide among ordinary citizens, especially if you are seated by a Republican Senate weeks before the election of a Democratic president and congress. You have the opportunity to offer an alternative to all that by demanding that your nomination be suspended until after the election. We implore you to take that step.

We’re asking a lot, we know. Should Vice-President Biden be elected, your seat on the court will almost certainly be lost. That would be painful, surely. Yet there is much to be gained in risking your seat. You would earn the respect of fair-minded people everywhere. You would provide a model of civic selflessness. And you might well inspire Americans of different beliefs toward a renewed commitment to the common good.

We wish you well and trust you will make the right decision for our nation.

Read the names of the signers here.

Will Amy Coney Barrett’s charismatic faith make her “less predictable” as a justice?

In a recent piece at The Atlantic, anthropologist T.M. Luhrmann argues that Amy Coney Barrett’s charismatic faith might lead here to be “less predictable than many presume.” Here is a taste:

In my research on charismatic evangelical Christianity, I have seen that people experience God as doing surprising, startling things, and that their sense of being surprised by God becomes proof that they are acting as he wills. I met, for example, a man who joined the Word of God (the community from which People of Praise developed) and became a charismatic evangelical pastor. Ken Wilson founded a church in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with hundreds of congregants. He led that church for decades. Some years ago, his associate pastor met the woman who would become her wife. The church wanted him to fire her. But Wilson had prayed intensely about this, and he refused. He believes that it was God who changed his mind. The church then asked him to leave too—and he did.

Amy Coney Barrett is a woman who has lived out a radical critique of the modern world. She will be less vulnerable to the peer pressure of other judges than many might be, because she has a powerful moral compass, developed out of her own experience in prayer. Yes, she will likely oppose Roe v. Wade if the opportunity arises. Yes, she will likely take conservative positions. But she has a radical streak and an intensely personal God, and we should expect some surprises from her.

Read the rest here.

This is an interesting argument, but it is based on the assumption–which Barrett denies–that her religious faith will somehow shape how she understands the law. I think, in most cases, the originalism of Antonin Scalia, and not her charismatic faith, will guide her decisions. This probably means that the surprises will be few.

Why isn’t Amy Coney Barrett a model for conservative evangelical women?

Katelyn Beaty writes at The New York Times: “But to set the record straight, on handmaid and beyond, conservative Christians must do their part to imagine a broader and more humanizing vision for women’s place in the public square.”

Here is more:

So it’s worth asking: If Judge Barrett’s Catholic faith and indisputable career accomplishments make her such a young heroine of the Christian right, why doesn’t the traditional Christianity to which she adheres encourage more women to be like her?

To be clear, few in even secular communities can be like Judge Barrett. Most Americans do not enjoy the privileges of class and elite education that she has had as a federal judge and legal scholar. A flexible workplace and supportive spouse — things many men take for granted — remain elusive for many women.

But there’s another reason few Christian women can simultaneously pursue career ambitions and family life in the ways Judge Barrett has: In traditional Christian communities, women are often asked to sacrifice the former at the altar of the latter.

Read the entire piece here.

*The Washington Post* religion desk tackles Amy Coney Barrett and People of Praise

Here is Emma Brown, Jon Swaine, and Michelle Boorstein:

While Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett has faced questions about how her Catholic faith might influence her jurisprudence, she has not spoken publicly about her involvement in People of Praise, a small Christian group founded in the 1970s and based in South Bend, Ind.

Barretta federal appellate judge, has disclosed serving on the board of a network of private Christian schools affiliated with the group. The organization, however, has declined to confirm that she is a member. In recent years, it removed from its website editions of a People of Praise magazine — first those that included her name and photograph and then all archives of the magazine itself.

Barrett has had an active role in the organization, as have her parents, according to documents and interviews that help fill out a picture of her involvement with a group that keeps its teachings and gatherings private.

I made a small contribution to the piece:

John Fea, a prominent historian of U.S. religion at Messiah University, said Barrett would be the first Supreme Court justice to come from a charismatic Christian background.

Fea said he believes it is fair for senators to ask Barrett how she views the blending of her small, insular community and a job judging for a nation. But he said People of Praise’s belief in distinct gender roles is similar to what is lived and preached across much of America today, in faiths as different as Catholicism, the Southern Baptist Convention and orthodox Islam and Judaism.

He said that believing men should be the spiritual leaders of the family does not mean that women cannot be professionally ambitious. “Everything about Amy Coney Barrett’s career contradicts the idea that women in People of Praise can’t have careers or be successful,” he said.

Read the entire piece here.

What Matthew 4 REALLY says about Christians and power

Recently an evangelical pastor who was a college of classmate of mine wrote to me praising Donald Trump’s decision to nominate Amy Coney Barrett as Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s replacement on the Supreme Court. He seemed very excited about the nomination and was surprised when I was not as excited as he was.

As I have argued, I think what McConnell did was wrong in 2016 when he refused to give Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, a hearing and a vote in the Senate. As many of you recall, McConnell claimed that since it was an election year the American people, through the ballot box, should decide who would replace the late Antonin Scalia on the bench. Trump won in 2016 and he nominated Neil Gorsuch. The GOP-controlled Senate confirmed him.

2020 is an election year. In fact, the election will take place in about a month. McConnell now seems to have no problem with confirming a Supreme Court justice in an election year. He is hard at work pushing Barrett through the system.

This evangelical pastor friend did not see any problem with McConnell’s blatant hypocrisy. Actually, I don’t even think he understands what McConnell did as a form of hypocrisy. As my old college acquaintance put it in his note to me, we now have a Republican president and a Republican Senate and “elections have consequences.”

Based on other exchanges I have had with this pastor, I highly doubt he would have said “elections have consequences” if the same thing happened with a Democratic president’s nominee and a Democratic-controlled Senate. He would instead be making an appeal to the Constitution or perhaps the scriptures. But I digress.

The GOP is licking its chops to confirm Barrett. Its members thus need some kind of argument to save face and explain that they are not hypocrites. Most of these GOP Senators and pundits believe that the Constitution should be interpreted based upon the original intent of the framers. But they are not consistent in this belief. They only claim original intent when it meets their needs. There is nothing in the Constitution that says a Supreme Court nominee in an election year can only get a Senate hearing if the president making the nomination is of the same political party as the party controlling the Senate. The GOP just made this up.

And if the GOP really believes the original intent of the founders is important, they should be talking about how the founders would be appalled at the rank partisanship driving this whole nomination and confirmation process.

But perhaps most revealing is the way this pastor reconciles 2016 (Obama and Garland) and 2020 (Trump and Barrett) with an appeal to raw power. Again, notice that he did not appeal to the Constitution, the Bible, or some other moral code to defend McConnell’s decision. The exact words he used to justify Barrett’s nomination were “Republicans in power. Elections have consequences.” In a single sentence he confirmed a major part of my argument in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.

Of course Jesus had a chance to obtain worldly power as well.

I recall that passage in Matthew 4 when Satan offered Jesus “all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor” if he would just bow down and worship him. When Jesus turned down Satan’s offer (“away from me Satan!”) God sent angels to attend to him. Jesus rejected worldly power and God was there to offer comfort and assurance in the form of the angels. The rest of the Gospel story, of course, is God showing how he would carry out his plan in another way–The Way–a way that did not require the kind of earthly power Satan was offering to Jesus.

But most people don’t know that in the 1980s Jerry Falwell Sr., while conducting a Moral Majority Holy Land tour, discovered early manuscripts of the Matthew 4 that show Jesus actually taking Satan’s deal. According to these ancient manuscripts, Jesus drove a hard bargain with Satan. In this manuscript Jesus specifically defined the “kingdoms of the world” as the future United States and demanded that Satan bring “splendor” to this kingdom by one day raising-up a morally bankrupt pagan leader (similar to King Cyrus of old) who would have the opportunity to appoint three Supreme Court justices. Satan agreed to deal, but fitting with his cunning spirit, took over 2000 years to fulfill his promise to Jesus.

What? You’ve never heard this before? It’s all there in the Lynchburg scrolls. The reason people don’t know about these scrolls is because the fake media won’t report on them.

🙂

How Abraham Lincoln challenged the power of the Supreme Court

How did Abraham Lincoln challenged a Supreme Court dominated by pro-slavery ideologues? Princeton historian Matthew Karp answers this question in his latest piece at Jacobin. Here is a taste:

Across the late 1850s, Lincoln argued that “the American people,” not the Supreme Court, were the true arbiters of the Constitution, and that the only way to defeat the proslavery judiciary was through mass political struggle. And after Lincoln and Hamlin were elected in 1860, the new president’s inaugural address articulated this view in perhaps the strongest language he ever used:

[I]f the policy of the government, upon vital questions, affecting the whole people, is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made . . . the people will have ceased, to be their own rulers, having, to that extent, practically resigned their government, into the hands of that eminent tribunal.

Once in power, Lincoln and congressional Republicans “reorganized” the federal judiciary and “packed” the court, adding an additional justice in 1863. More fundamentally, though, they simply ignored the proslavery precedents established in the 1850s. In June 1862, for instance, Congress passed and Lincoln signed a bill banning slavery from the federal territories — a direct violation of the majority ruling in Dred Scott. The court meekly acquiesced, recognizing that its political power was long since broken.

As the legal historian Charles Warren later lamented, Republicans’ popular assault on the court crippled the institution for more than a decade: “During neither the Civil War nor the period of Reconstruction,” Warren wrote, “did the Supreme Court play anything like its due role of supervision, with the result that during one period the military powers of the President underwent undue expansion, and during the other the legislative powers of Congress. The Court itself was conscious of its weakness. . . . The loss of confidence in the Court was due not merely to the Court’s decision but to the false and malignant criticisms and portrayals of the Court which were spread widely through the North by influential newspapers . . . .”

Warren’s point, in other words, is that the greatest democratic expansion in US political history — the era of emancipation and Reconstruction — demanded a direct political attack on the power of the Supreme Court. Nor is it a coincidence that the court, as it began to recover its strength in the 1870s, led the reactionary attack on this democratic project.

Drawing direct lessons from the past is a fool’s errand, but this history should remind us that judicial power — however grandly it may be imagined by friends and foes alike — is critically dependent on political currents.

Read the entire piece here. I am not a Lincoln scholar, but there seems little in Karp’s piece about the role the Civil War played in Lincoln’s ability to challenge the pro-slavery court.

People of Praise and South Bend, Indiana

Over at Politico, Adam Wren writes about the relationship between People of Praise and the city of South Bend, Indiana. Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court has brought attention to this small Catholic community.

Here is a taste of Wren’s piece, “How Amy Coney Barrett’s Religious Group Held Shape a City“:

What’s difficult to understand outside South Bend, however, is just how deeply integrated this group is into the local community. Though the group has only a few thousand local members, and keeps a low profile as an organization, its influence and footprint in the city are significant. That influence, and its resistance to liberal changes in the wider culture, are likely to arise as issues in her Supreme Court nomination hearings, expected to begin Oct. 12.

People of Praise includes several prominent local families, including realtors and local financial advisers, who act as a sort of professional network for families in the group and provide considerable social capital to its members. In South Bend mayoral elections, campaigns have been known to strategize about winning over People of Praise as a constituency, given the fact that they live close together in several neighborhoods. The group runs Trinity School at Greenlawn, a private intermediate and high school that is considered by some to be the best—and most conservative—school in South Bend. Families from Notre Dame and elsewhere, even unaffiliated with the group, pay $14,000 to attend grades 9-12 and $13,000 for grades 6-8. Barrett served on its board between 2015 and 2017, and her husband Jesse, a former assistant U.S. attorney who is now a partner in a law firm here, advised the school’s nationally recognized mock trial team.

As industry receded in South Bend with the closure of the automaker Studebaker in 1963, People of Praise has grown to occupy some of the city’s most storied institutions. The group’s original home was the nine-floor, 233-room Hotel LaSalle, a Georgian Revival structure from the 1920s, one of the most prominent buildings in downtown South Bend. When the group moved into the building in 1975, after it was bought by Charismatic Renewal Services, Inc.,a closely affiliated nonprofit, it cleared out one floor to serve as a communal daycare, and used a former ballroom for its meetings, where members spoke in tongues and practiced healing. Some members lived there.

Trinity School occupies a sprawling mansion situated on a sylvan property on the east side of town that was formerly owned by the Studebaker family, whose factory once employed 30,000 workers. The group’s main meeting hall, which isn’t listed on Google Maps, is a former bowling alley and indoor soccer complex 10 minutes from downtown, near the Trinity sports fields.

Read the entire piece here.

I blogged about People of Praise here.

As I read Wren’s piece, I thought about all the small evangelical experiments in communalism associated with the Jesus People and the evangelical Left. See Shawn Young, Gray Sabbath: Jesus People USA, the Evangelical Left, and the Evolution of Christian Rock; Larry Eskridge, God’s Forever Family: The Jesus People; and David Swartz, Moral Minority: The Evangelical Left in an Age of Conservatism.

I know these communities well. In fact, I became an evangelical in a similar community in West Milford, New Jersey. This community was theologically and socially conservative, but active in helping the poor and serving its neighbors. And yes, it did have authoritarian tendencies. One day I will write more extensively about my seven or eight year experience in this community.

I am guessing that Barrett’s adoption of black children from Haiti has a lot more to do with her Christian faith as expressed through the People of Praise community than it does her efforts to cover up some inherent racism. Of course these two explanations can be connected, but it also worth noting that human beings often act in this world in ways that cannot always be reduced to race.

And as long as we are at it, let’s keep Barrett’s kids out of it.

Randall Balmer: Evangelicals “have been outsourcing their judicial appointments to conservative Catholics”

Back in July 2018, National Public Radio reporter Sarah McCammon asked me why there are no evangelical Christians on the Supreme Court. Here is the part of my answer that made it into her story:

MCCAMMON: A major goal for many conservatives, and one supported by Catholic theology. Trump’s shortlist for the next justice was overwhelmingly Catholic. One major religious group known for its social conservatism that’s notably absent from the court is evangelicals. That’s despite white evangelicals’ influence in the Trump administration and critical role in helping him win the presidency. John Fea is a historian at Messiah College, an evangelical institution in Pennsylvania.

JOHN FEA: A lot of that has to do with the direction that the evangelical movement has taken in America.

MCCAMMON: Fea says unlike Catholicism and Judaism, which both have a long intellectual tradition, American evangelicalism has been more practical in focus.

FEA: Evangelicals are primarily concerned with preaching the gospel, with service. So as a result, you have a lot of evangelicals doing great things, but they’re not necessarily pursuing this kind of intellectual vocation because they’re out trying to win people to Christ.

Most of the evangelical lawyers with a public profile are people like Trump’s impeachment lawyer Jay Sekulow, men and women who specialize in church-state law and believe that the primary way of being a Christian lawyer to help the Right win the culture wars.

In a recent piece at CNN, Ron Brownstein explores the place of conservative Catholics on the Supreme Court. If Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed, she will join John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Brett Kavanaugh as Catholic justices with a conservative judicial philosophy. (Sonia Sotomayor, a liberal justice, is also Catholic).

Brownstein’s piece draws heavily from the work of Dartmouth American religious historian Randall Balmer. Here is a taste:

“You have a situation where the evangelicals have been outsourcing their judicial appointments to conservative Catholics,” says Randall Balmer, a professor of religion at Dartmouth University, who has written extensively on the history of evangelical political activism.

The Catholic dominance in these selections, many observers say, simultaneously reflects an ideological convergence and an institutional divergence. The ideological convergence is that conservative Catholics, including those in the legal field, have displayed as much commitment to conservative social causes, particularly banning abortion, as evangelical Christians. The institutional divergence is that there is a vastly stronger legal network — from well-respected law schools to judicial clerkships to lower court appointments — to provide conservative Catholics with the credentials required to obtain a Supreme Court nomination than exists for evangelical Protestants.

The Republican tilt toward Catholics over evangelicals “has to do, in really simple terms, with supply and demand,” says Joshua Wilson, a political scientist at the University of Denver and co-author with Amanda Hollis-Brusky of “Separate But Faithful,” an upcoming book on conservative Christians in the legal world. “You don’t have a robust pool of evangelical Protestant lawyers and judges, whereas you do have a robust pool of conservative Catholic judges and lawyers and academics.”

Read the entire piece here.

Is Amy Coney Barrett a new feminist icon?

This is a really interesting piece at Politico. Here is a taste of Erika Bachiochi‘s “Amy Coney Barrett: A New Feminist Icon”:

Barrett embodies a new kind of feminism, a feminism that builds upon the praiseworthy antidiscrimination work of Ginsburg but then goes further. It insists not just on the equal rights of men and women, but also on their common responsibilities, particularly in the realm of family life. In this new feminism, sexual equality is found not in imitating men’s capacity to walk away from an unexpected pregnancy through abortion, but rather in asking men to meet women at a high standard of mutual responsibility, reciprocity and care.

At Barrett’s Senate confirmation hearing in 2017, Sen. Dianne Feinstein tellingly remarked, “You are controversial because many of us that have lived lives as women really recognize the value of finally being able to control our reproductive systems, and Roe entered into that, obviously.”

Barrett’s life story puzzles older feminists like Feinstein because bearing and raising a bevy of children has long implied retaining a traditional life script — like staying home with the children — that Barrett has obviously not heeded.

To be sure, few mothers of seven could become federal judges, never mind Supreme Court justices. Barrett – “generationally brilliant,” according to her Notre Dame colleague, O. Carter Snead — is likely alone in this set. It all seems so unlikely: She has risen to the pinnacle of her profession while at once being “radically hospitable” to children, as Snead has described her. An enigma to many, she doesn’t easily fit into any ideological box.

If we’re really intent as a country on seeing women flourish in their professions and serve in greater numbers of leadership positions too, it would be worthwhile to interrupt the abortion rights sloganeering for a beat and ask just how this mother of many has achieved so much.

Read the entire piece here.