When White House aide Stephen Miller went on television to attack “judicial supremacy” after federal judges blocked President Trump’s executive order on immigrants and refugees, Miller was echoing language that Religious Right leaders have been using for years, notes a new report from People For the American Way Foundation.
The Religious Right has held a half-century long grudge against the U.S. Supreme Court and federal courts, explains the new report, “Trump Attacks on Religious Liberty Could be Religious Right’s Biggest Payoff,” as they “have long viewed the federal courts as obstacles to the creation—or in their minds, restoration—of America as a Christian nation whose laws reflect their interpretation of the Bible.”
The report traces decades of conservative Christian leaders’ hostility toward what they see as “judicial tyranny”—court rulings on school desegregation, religious liberty, separation of church and state, privacy and reproductive choice, and most recently, marriage equality.
Christian-nation activist and Trump booster David Lane, for example, says that in response to the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling, the church “should have initiated riots, revolution, and repentance.” Lane and other conservative evangelicals and Catholics, including Republican politicians like former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, have called openly for state officials to engage in “nullification” by simply defying the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling.
The Religious Right’s push for nullification may quiet down now that the candidate who promised them the Supreme Court of their dreams is sitting in the White House. But Trump’s hostility to being challenged is likely to result in further attacks on federal judges. And as long as Roe and Obergefell stand, some Religious Right leaders might welcome a constitutional crisis that would diminish the Supreme Court’s role in safeguarding core constitutional principles.
The PFAW Foundation report suggests that Trump and his allies consider former Chief Justice John Marshall’s observation:
If the legislatures of the several states may at will annul the judgments of the courts of the United States, and destroy the rights acquired under those judgments, the Constitution itself becomes a solemn mockery.