While you were soundly sleeping last night (and for years of nights before that), hard-core political conservatives with deep religious faith have been silently but resolutely insinuating legions of like-minded judges into the American system who promise to further entangle church and state.
They do this with a thicket of shadowy nonprofit groups legally allowed to keep donors secret and by influencing public opinion in selecting conservative federal judicial nominees (appointed, not elected, to lifetime terms) and getting Congress, with the president’s approval, to officially seat them on courts. These include federal judges and Supreme Court justices.
Like in the last couple of years as “In God We Trust” signs suddenly began popping up in schools across the country (required by new laws), this new proliferation of conservative jurists has been orchestrated largely behind the scenes, out of the public eye.
To date, seven legislatures in six Southern states (Kentucky, Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, Florida and Alabama), and one each in the West (Arizona) and Midwest (South Dakota) have passed laws either allowing or enforcing the “prominent display” of signs inscribed with the Johnny-come-lately national motto (“In God We Trust”). Two were passed just this year, as the judiciary has endorsed the trend. Read about the disingenuous history of the motto’s adoption to supercede the original motto — E pluribus Unum (from many, one) — in my previous post in April, here.
Most Americans had no idea why these signs unexpectedly began emerging in schools. That’s because it is the fruit of a largely subliminal national campaign by an activist evangelical Christian group, Project Blitz, which has been busy for a number of years trying to sprinkle Christian symbols and doctrines liberally throughout America’s public square, in schools, legislatures and beyond.
It’s been a successful initiative. Students in every school in eight states are now assaulted by Christianity (“God” is a specifically Christian deity, and it’s also anathema to all nonbelievers) every school day of the regular school year, and in summer school, too. With legal cover.
In addition to this bald-faced corruption of America’s church-state separation ethos, the seating of conservative, mostly devoted-Christian jurists to the bench by their concurring champions is embedding a longing to go back to a 1950s-era future of religious privilege, hostility to diversity and aggressive resistance to social and cultural transformation.
Since Donald Trump was elected, he has nominated 224 jurists to federal judgeships, 157 of whom have been confirmed. As of Oct. 3, 107 vacancies remained. Lest we forget, he also nominated and succeeded in seating two ultra-conservative justices on the Supreme Court — Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
I knew somewhat about Project Blitz’s game plan when the “In God We Trust” signs started proliferating like Jacks-in-the-box in schools and elsewhere in governmental spaces (such as on sheriff’s cars), but I only recently learned of the sinister depth and breadth of the tightly interwoven conservative structure that is promoting conservative federal judgeships.
It was all laid out in a long, factually detailed Washington Post article in May by Robert O’Harrow Jr. and Shawn Boburg, entitled “A conservative activists’ behind-the-scenes campaign to remake the nation’s courts.”
The article introduced to me to an apparently very influential guy named Leonard Leo (see the video embedded in this post), who “helped conservative nonprofits raise $250 million from mostly undisclosed donors in recent years to promote conservative judges and causes.”
“The story of Leo’s rise offers an inside look into the modern machinery of political persuasion,” O’Harrow and Boburg wrote. “It shows how undisclosed interests outside of government are harnessing the nation’s nonprofit system to influence judicial appointments that will shape the nation for decades.
“Even as Leo counseled Trump on judicial picks, he and his allies were raising money for nonprofits that under IRS rules do not have to disclose their donors. Between 2014 and 2017 alone, they collected more than $250 million in such donations, sometimes known as ‘dark money,’ according to a Post analysis of the most recent tax filings available. The money was used to in part to support conservative policies and judges, through advertising and through funding for groups whose executives appeared on television as pundits.”
One of the key nonprofits Leo utilizes is Creative Response Concepts (CRC), which in support of Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court contributed 5,000 pro-Gorsuch quotes for news stories, scheduled pundit appearances backing Gorsuch, and posted online videos that were watched 50 million times, according to the CRC website.
The Post article also points out that Leo is a “devout Catholic” who has said he is “driven by his faith and a literal interpretation of the Constitution.”
In 2012 he joined boards of two Catholic nonprofits — the Catholic Association and its affiliated charity, the Catholic Association Foundation. These organizations funded initiatives encouraging Catholic voters and top states to resist recognizing same-sex marriage. The two groups also spawned a third, Catholic Voices, which launched a letter-writing campaign to key newspapers condemning the Affordable Care Act and Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in America.
So what we have here is untold millions of dollars in “dark money” and endless secret manhours being invested in marginalizing secularism and stunting its evolution in American society by widely sprinkling religion throughout the public square and seating federal judges expected to be more amenable to reinforcing the bogus view that we are a “Christian Nation.”
And this is just what we — the relatively few media commentators who follow this sort of thing more closely than others — know about.
Most Americans haven’t got a clue.
Yet this attack on our secular republic continues to relentlessly seep into the American landscape with surprisingly little notice.