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Inside The Christian Legal Army Weakening the Church-State Divide

Oct 15, 2019

By Sarah Posner

Never before has the Christian right been as elated about the prospects for transforming the federal judiciary as it is now, with the Senate engaged in the rapid-fire confirmation of judges nominated by President Donald Trump. As the confirmations mounted — 43 appellate and 99 trial court judges by the summer recess this year — Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell became the toast of such pivotal Christian right conferences as the Values Voters Summit and the Road to Majority, where the Faith and Freedom Coalition celebrated their role in seizing the federal judiciary back from what they see as activist liberal judges run amok. Senator Josh Hawley, the freshman Republican from Missouri whose first year in office has shown him to be a fierce defender of the president and a potential political heir, has said “we have never had a president in my lifetime who is this pro-life, this pro-family this pro-freedom, this pro-religious liberty.”

That is why it came as a surprise when, in May, Hawley, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, used his brief allotted time during confirmation hearings to ruthlessly flay Michael Bogren, a Kalamazoo lawyer Trump had nominated to serve on a U.S. District Court. Bogren, it seemed, had failed a litmus test in defending the City of East Lansing in a lawsuit filed by the Christian right legal powerhouse, Alliance Defending Freedom. The suit charges that the city violated the religious freedom of an antigay farmer by requiring that farmers’ market vendors adhere to the city’s nondiscrimination law. And Bogren had made the fatal error of arguing on behalf of his client, against ADF ideology, that even sincerely held religious beliefs do not exempt businesses from complying with the law.

Bogren’s nomination was effectively dead.

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