November 2018 Church & State - November 2018

Kavanaugh Controversy: The Religious Right Hits An Appalling New Low

  Kavanaugh Controversy: The Religious Right Hits An Appalling New Low

It will take some time for the nation to recover from the bruising confirmation process of Brett Kavanaugh. Raw wounds were exposed that won’t soon heal.

Much of the rhetoric flung by the far right, whose leaders were so determined to get Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, was toxic. When Christine Blasey Ford stepped forward to tell her story, she must have known she’d become a target for the right wing/Fox News smear machine. And she was. Leading the pack, much to their shame, were many leaders of Religious Right organizations.

Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh

(Photo: Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee in September 2018. Credit: Screenshot from C-SPAN.)

From the beginning, it was clear that the Religious Right’s only concern was to push Kavanaugh’s nomination through. Ford, and by extension the other women who were empowered to come forward with their stories of sexual assault, meant nothing to them.

“If Republicans were to fail to defend and confirm such an obviously and eminently qualified and decent nominee, then it will be very difficult to motivate and energize faith-based and conservative voters in November,” Ralph Reed, founder and chairman of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, told The New York Times.

Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas and one of President Donald Trump’s leading lickspittles, asserted that Democrats used Ford to delay the nomination. He simply refused to acknowledge the possibility that Ford might be telling the truth.

But arguably the most appalling comments were made by evangelist Franklin Graham and his frequent partner in crime, Jerry Falwell Jr.

Appearing on TV preacher Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network, Graham asserted, “It’s just a shame that a person like Judge Kavanaugh, who has a stellar record, that somebody can bring something up that he did as a teenager close to 40 years ago. That’s not relevant.”

Graham went on to say, “These are two teenagers, and it’s obvious that she said no and he respected it and walked away.”

Graham is either not even remotely familiar with Ford’s account, or chose to lie about it. Ford told The Washington Post that when she was 15 in the early 1980s, Kavanaugh, then 17, and his friend Mike Judge, both of whom were intoxicated, pulled her into a bedroom, where Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed, put one hand over her mouth and pawed at her clothes with the other. Judge jumped on the two and knocked everyone off the bed, at which point Ford was able to escape. That’s nowhere near “she said no and he respected it and walked away.”

During the height of the controversy, Falwell issued a tweet calling for Christian conservatives to stop electing “nice” candidates and go with “street fighters” like Trump. It boggles the mind to hear a “Christian” leader, someone who supposedly models the behavior of Jesus Christ, call for more incivility in government.

Notice one thing about all of the comments by these self-appointed guardians of morality: Not one of them expressed one iota of concern for what happened to Ford. Her trauma and pain meant nothing to them, nor did the considerable risk she undertook by stepping forward to tell her story.

Ford received death threats. She was forced to flee her home, hire security guards and be separated from her family. She sat before a panel dominated by powerful Republican male senators who had hired a professional prosecutor to grill her and try to poke holes in her story.  Yet she remained calm and poised. Kavanaugh, by contrast, was enraged and often seemed to be infuriated at the very idea that he might have to answer a few questions about his past behavior before waltzing into a lifetime job on the nation’s highest court.

Yet, in the Religious Right’s world, it was Kavanaugh, not Ford, who was the victim. Even as they made every conceivable excuse for Kavanaugh, not one of these groups condemned the harassment Ford endured. Not one was willing to even entertain the idea that she deserved sympathy.

This should not surprise anyone. After all, these same groups jumped on Trump’s bandwagon even after a tape surfaced of him boasting about how much he enjoys sexually assaulting women. They stood by Roy Moore in Alabama in the wake of allegations that he had, in the 1980s when he was in his thirties, assaulted a teenage girl and harassed others.

The operational philosophy of the Religious Right these days is “Do whatever it takes to win.” Say what you will about that, but there’s one thing we know for sure: It can’t be reconciled with the Bible, “family values” and simple decency.

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