During Wednesday night’s session of this year’s online-only Values Voter Summit, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins made it clear that the religious right will use the farcical confirmation hearings for President Donald Trump’s forthcoming Supreme Court nominee—Senate Republicans have already pledged to confirm whoever Trump nominates—to reprise their dishonest and dishonorable strategy of smearing Democratic senators and other opponents of Trump’s nominee as anti-religious.
Opposition to Trump’s eventual nominee will almost certainly focus on the administration’s desire to pack the court with justices who will overturn the Affordable Care Act—stripping millions of Americans of their access to health care in the midst of a pandemic—and reverse precedents that protect women’s right to choose and legal equality for LGBTQ Americans. The right wing knows that the majority of Americans do not share those harmful goals, so they hope to confuse the issue by crying “religious bigotry.”
Right Wing Watch noted earlier this week that the right wing’s public relations machinery was already rolling with the anti-religious smear even before a nominee was named:
[Amy Coney] Barrett’s supporters have already been gearing up a campaign to smear opponents of her confirmation as anti-Catholic. When Barrett was nominated by Trump to an appeals court, they waged a similar smear campaign against Democratic senators, accusing them of anti-Catholic bigotry—a tactic frequently used by conservatives to distract from the substance of nominee’s judicial ideology.
The religious right’s charges of “anti-Catholic” bigotry have often been leveled at senators who are themselves Catholic.
During Wednesday night’s Values Voter Summit session, Perkins asked right-wing radio host and former National Rifle Association spokesperson Dana Loesch how the church should respond “when we see these attacks and we know they’re coming on the whole issue of faith.” Loesch celebrated the “generational impact” of replacing Ruth Bader Ginsburg with a right-wing justice, and she encouraged the church to be “happy warriors” because “the battle’s already been won.”
Perkins also spoke with anti-choice activist Marjorie Dannenfelser, who heads the Susan B. Anthony List, a group that seeks to end access to abortion in the U.S. by electing politicians who will vote to criminalize it. Dannenfelser is an ally of religious-right activists who have been praying for God to “remove” pro-choice Supreme Court justices so that Trump can replace them with judges who will overturn Roe v. Wade.
Perkins and Dannenfelser both falsely charged that Democrats who have opposed Trump’s judicial nominees on the basis of their judicial ideology or lack of commitment to upholding Americans’ constitutional rights were actually imposing a religious test on the federal court. Perkins charged that there is a “reverse religious test that we’re now seeing today that if you have religious beliefs, you’re disqualified from serving in office,” a notion that is ludicrous on its face given that the vast majority of officeholders in Congress are people of faith.