On a September afternoon, about 60 prominent Christians assembled in the library of the Metropolitan Club on the east side of Central Park. … At the center of the event was Robert P. George, a Princeton University professor of jurisprudence and a Roman Catholic who is this country’s most influential conservative Christian thinker. …Alarmed at the liberal takeover of Washington and an apparent leadership vacuum among the Christian right, the group had come together to warn the country’s secular powers that the culture wars had not ended. As a starting point, George had drafted a 4,700-word manifesto that promised resistance to the point of civil disobedience against any legislation that might implicate their churches or charities in abortion, embryo-destructive research or same-sex marriage.
FOR 20 YEARS, George has operated largely out of public view at the intersection of academia, religion and politics. … And he is in many ways the public face of the conservative side in the most urgent culture-war battle of the day. The National Organization for Marriage, the advocacy group fighting same-sex marriage in Albany and Trenton, Maine and California, has made him its chairman. Before the 2004 election, he helped a coalition of Christian conservative groups write their proposed amendment to the federal Constitution defining marriage as heterosexual. More than any other scholar, George has staked his reputation on the claim that same-sex marriage violates not only tradition but also human reason.
… In the American culture wars, George wants to redraw the lines…. George argues that reason alone shows that heterosexual sodomy and homosexual sex are morally wrong, just as the Catholic Church, classical philosophers and other religious traditions have historically taught. …
…At Princeton, George founded an independently financed center, the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions. Conservatives celebrate it for bringing conservative thinking to the campus and for adding “Princeton” to the résumés of young scholars.
…George … is plunging deeper into partisan politics. Alarmed at signs that the Republican Party was moving away from cultural issues, he recently founded a new group called the American Principles Project, which aims to build a grass-roots movement around his ideas.
George, co-author of the Manhattan Declaration and co-founder of the National Organization for Marriage, published a law review article and book, “What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense” with Sherif Gergis and the Heritage Foundation’s Ryan Anderson. George was quite proud that Justice Samuel Alito (acting as the co-conspirator with Scalia) cited their arguments in his dissent to the Supreme Court decision overturning part of the Defense of Marriage Act.
Justices cast their initial votes on cases in a conference, and the task of writing the majority opinion is assigned to a particular justice… But until the decision is formally issued, any justice is free to change the vote he or she cast in the conference. (For example, there is strong evidence that the Affordable Care Act was saved when John Roberts changed his mind after the initial conference vote, thus transforming what was originally the majority opinion in the case into the dissent).
This fact has serious practical implications for several important cases the Court is currently considering.
For example, it now seems likely that a crucial labor law case that seemed fated to deal a serious and possibly fatal blow to many public sector unions will come out the other way.
And Justice Scalia’s death may well have also saved the Obama administration’s most critical climate change regulations.
This is because what were poised to be 5-4 decisions will now feature 4-4 votes — and a tie vote in the Supreme Court leaves the law unchanged….
Every four years we hear that the winner of the presidential election may well play a key role in shaping the composition of the Court for decades to come. … Obama will surely take into account that an increasingly radicalized and confrontational GOP is not going to allow its senators to approve anyone to the Court that Democrats would consider minimally acceptable. This suggests he will nominate someone whose rejection by the Senate will do maximum damage to the electoral chances of both the Republican presidential nominee, and of the GOP senatorial candidates who will be in competitive races in November….
… [T]his situation will play out in such a way that public disgust over how a radicalized GOP reacts to Obama’s nomination(s) ends up playing a crucial role in handing both the presidency and the Senate to the Democrats.
And should that happen, we can then look forward to Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders choosing Barack Obama to succeed Antonin Scalia.
Scalia was a Roman Catholic far right theocratic Reconstructionist who like such figures as the late racist bigot (I knew him personally in my far right loony days) Rousas Rushdoony, worked not only in public but behind the scenes with likes of Robert George of Princeton and the other Roman Catholic homophobic-women haters, and other far right theocracy-advocates to conspire to bring issues like the Hobby Lobby case to the court.
Together with the evangelicals the far right Catholics, (now the sworn enemies of Pope Francis as well as of President Obama) are using the idea of religious “civil liberties” to impose Roman Catholic doctrine on the country. Scalia was their co-conspirator and was behind the Wheaton case giving Wheaton the “right” to deny their female employees insurance coverage for contraception. They are (or were) planning many more such cases using shell “foundations” and “legal groups” as their front for a cause they dared not frontally attack. That cause is a wholesale rollback of civil liberties.
Leading the attack on freedom in the (ironically chosen “religious liberty” cause) is a little-known nonprofit law firm called the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. It is its driving force behind the far religious right claim they are being persecuted. They are the engine that drives the evangelical “victimology” machine. They are experts on persecuting gays and women in the name of freedom. And Scalia was their stooge.
Becket Fund’s lawyers are among the country’s most most elite “One Percent” type defenders of “religious rights.” George is their mentor, as was Scalia.
Here’s a picture of Robert George and guests at a Becket Fund dinner. George is the brains behind the Becket Fund and on the board of directors.
Redefining “religious liberty” has become the central culture war issue and the primary legal and public relations strategy chosen by conservative evangelicals and their allies in the Catholic hierarchy to resist the advance of LGBT equality and restrict women’s access to reproductive care. Becket is at the center of this strategy. A corollary strategy is portraying Christians in America as the victims of religious persecution; Becket lawyers appear in Rick Santorum’s latest movie, “One Generation Away: The Erosion of Religious Liberty.”
In addition to Robert George, the intellectual force behind the Manhattan Declaration and the Catholic bishops’ “religious liberty” strategy, Becket’s board includes culture warriors like the Family Research Council’s Ken Blackwell and right-wing mega-funder Sean Fieler.
A Robert George clone and former student of his–the new president of Gordon College–sent a letter to President Obama demanding the right (in the name of religious liberty) to discriminate against gays on campus. This too was a George tactic using this old student of his. This too was a tactic to use and abuse evangelical schools to as the new point men in the crusade to impose a theocracy in the name of liberty.
How wonderfully ironic it will be to see President Obama replace him (and thus in truth also “replace” Robert George/Ted Cruz in person!
The GOP is led by far right not terribly bright people living in a perpetual exclusionary and delusional “reality.” They have vomited up Ted Cruz and Donald Trump to make sure George and company loose their hate game.
The rest of us are going to have to clean up the mess the George/Scalia/Cruz team was making of our democracy.
President Obama will make a great Supreme Court Justice, as great a justice as Pope Francis is a great pope, with or without Robert George’s approval. Fingers crossed!
Frank Schaeffer is a writer. His latest book —WHY I AM AN ATHEIST WHO BELIEVES IN GOD: How to give love, create beauty and find peace