Why the Christian Right Couldn't Care Less About Accusations Against Brett Kavanaugh
Memories of Justice Clarence Thomas’ 1991 Senate confirmation hearings have come flooding back this week, with Christine Blasey Ford—a 51-year-old psychology professor at Palo Alto University in Northern California—accusing Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, of attempted rape.
On September 17, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow noted the parallels between the two by discussing Ford’s accusation against Kavanaugh and playing old October 1991 clips of Sen. Joe Biden questioning Anita Hill—who alleged that Thomas had sexually harassed her and described to her, in elaborate detail, hardcore porn films he had viewed. Regardless of Hill’s allegations, Thomas has been an icon of the Christian Right, just as far-right white evangelicals are longing to see Kavanaugh confirmed. And once again, we are reminded that for the Christian Right, tribalism always takes a back seat to the morality and piety they claim to represent.
Despite Hill’s accusations against him in 1991, Thomas has been one of the most socially conservative justices on the Supreme Court—and the Christian Right has generally applauded the nomination of Kavanaugh, who would replace the retired Anthony Kennedy, a right-wing 1987 Ronald Reagan appointee who was fiscally conservative but showed libertarian-ish leanings when it came to gay rights and abortion. The Christian Right is hoping that Kavanaugh, if confirmed, will join Thomas and other social conservatives on the High Court in ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade (the 1973 ruling that, in effect, made abortion legal in all 50 states). And those who have applauded Kavanaugh’s nomination have ranged from Karen Swallow Prior of Liberty University (founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, Sr.) to the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins (who considers Kavanaugh a “strict constitutionalist” despite his appalling record on civil rights).
Had a Democratic nominee for the Supreme Court been accused of attempted rape, the Christian Right would be demanding the nominee’s immediate withdrawal. But Kavanaugh, regardless of Ford’s accusation, will get a pass from the Christian Right because they see him as part of their tribe—just as Thomas got a pass in 1991, and just as President Donald Trump has been getting a pass.
Barack Obama, although not a fundamentalist, has a much stronger connection to Christianity and a much longer history of attending church than Trump—who isn’t especially religious. Far-right white evangelicals, however, despise Obama but adore Trump. Rev. Robert Jeffress, for example, exalted Trump as “the most pro-life, pro-religious liberty, pro-conservative judiciary president of any president in history”—and he isn’t alone in feeling that way.
According to Pew Research Center, Trump won 81% of the white born-again white evangelical vote in 2016. And allegations that he had extramarital affairs with a porn star (Stormy Daniels) and a Playboy model (Karen McDougal) and paid them hush money to keep quiet don’t matter to them because they consider Trump a part of their tribe.
The double standards of the Christian Right are impossible to miss:
- The Christian Right applauded when the Meese Commission on porn, ordered by President Ronald Reagan, came about in 1986; after Anita Hill testified that Clarence Thomas had a major appetite for hardcore porn and sexually harassed her, they still welcomed him to the Supreme Court.
- When President Bill Clinton had an extramarital affair with intern Monica Lewinsky in the late 1990s and lied about it under oath, the Christian Right was out for blood and wanted him impeached; when Daniels and McDougal alleged that Trump had extramarital affairs with them, far-right white evangelicals were totally forgiving.
The Rev. Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, a Baptist minister in Durham, North Carolina, criticized the hypocrisy of the Christian Right in a September 3 commentary for the New York Times—noting how selective they can be when it comes to morality.
Wilson-Hartgrove wrote, “As proponents of Christian nationalism continue to be the most consistent base of support for President Trump, my evangelical faith compels me to challenge the way reactionary conservatives have hijacked our faith to serve their narrow interests.” And the North Carolina minister went on to say that while the Christian Right likes Judge Kavanaugh when it comes to abortion, they aren’t so Christian when it comes to their quest to “make life more difficult for minorities, workers, poor people, and the LGBTQ community.”
Media Matters has noted how quick Fox News—which has always been supportive of the Christian Right—has been to attack Ford’s credibility. Rather than wait to hear her testimony about the alleged 1982 incident involving Kavanaugh, Laura Ingraham and others at Fox News are already attacking her credibility and dismissing her as a dishonest tool of the Democratic Party.
However, one self-identified “conservative evangelical” who has been calling Republicans out for being so quick to condemn Ford is former gymnast Rachel Denhollander—who declared, “ Conservatives, you want to be the party of family values? You want to be pro-woman and pro-child? Then start by taking claims of sexual assault seriously instead of using poor logic, straw men and ad hominems to avoid the issue. Otherwise, you are part of the cultural problem.”
Denhollander said it perfectly. But the Christian Right has always had two sets of standards—one for their tribe, and another for all the non-fundamentalists they despise. And when far-right white evangelicals fail to take accusations of sexual abuse seriously, it shows how warped their view of “family values” really is.