In the November 1980 U.S. presidential election, Ronald Reagan defeated President Jimmy Carter thanks to votes from white conservatives who called themselves evangelical Christians. Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Phyliss Schlafly, James Robison and a host of other white Christian leaders openly embraced Reagan.
White Christian leaders denounced Carter, who was then a devout Southern Baptist, and criticized him for being respectful of civil rights, including the rights of non-white persons and women.
They denounced Carter, who received the Nobel peace prize for his work negotiating diplomatic talks between the state of Israel and Egypt.
They disagreed with Carter, who openly warned the nation about our addiction to fossil fuel and the threat that our addiction posed for the future of the nation and world.
What those white Christian leaders wanted, more than anything else, was to elect someone who would appoint federal judges, and especially Supreme Court justices, who would reverse the social changes brought about by the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Earl Warren.
They wanted the federal government to allow states to discriminate against Black people, suppress voting, control whether women and girls exercise reproductive freedom, and decide whether people can be oppressed due to sexual orientation or gender identity.
They wanted federal courts to limit federal power to protect the land, water and air and protect the creatures and plants threatened by commercial conduct.
They wanted federal courts to limit federal power to protect workers from occupational illnesses, diseases and injuries.
They wanted the United States to give Israel a blank check for weapons it could use to terrorize Palestinians living in Israel, East Jerusalem, the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza, depopulate Palestine, and intimidate Arab nations in the Persian Gulf region.
White evangelical conservatives worked hard with pro-Zionist Jewish sympathizers and Catholic priests who were opposed to abortion rights for women and girls to put Jimmy Carter out of office. That is why they supported Reagan’s reelection in 1984. That is why they supported George H. Bush for president in 1988.
George H. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas to become an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.
When Bill Clinton defeated George H. Bush during the November 1992 presidential election, white religious conservatives feared their mission to take over the federal government and control its powers would be threatened. They were unsuccessful in defeating Clinton’s reelection in 1996.
“When Bill Clinton defeated George H. Bush during the November 1992 presidential election, white religious conservatives feared their mission to take over the federal government and control its powers would be threatened.”
But in 2000, Reagan-appointed justices to the Supreme Court voted to stop counting votes from Florida in the Bush v. Gore case. With that decision, George W. Bush defeated Albert Gore Jr., who was vice president during the Clinton administration.
Gore, like Jimmy Carter, warned the nation and world about the dangers of climate change. Like Carter, Gore was a faithful Baptist who supported civil rights, including the rights of women and girls to exercise freedom about reproductive choices.
White evangelical Christian conservative leaders embraced George W. Bush and opposed Gore’s candidacy.
White Protestant Christian conservatives supported George W. Bush, who as governor of Texas put more value on the wishes of petroleum companies than on the lives and safety of Texans.
Despite proof that the U.S.-led war in Iraq was based on lies and misinformation, white evangelical Christian conservatives supported George W. Bush for reelection in 2004. Their two primary concerns were (a) overturning the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade that recognized the right of women to decide whether to have an abortion is protected by the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and (b) opposition to claims by gay, lesbian and other queer persons to legal and social equality and protection from discrimination.
For those reasons, white evangelical Christian conservatives supported George W. Bush for re-election and opposed the candidacy of then Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, whose state supreme court recognized the legal right to same sex-marriage in 1993, making Massachusetts the first state to legalize same-sex marriage.
George W. Bush initially nominated John W. Roberts to become a justice on the Supreme Court in September 2005. When Chief Justice William Rehnquist died, Bush withdrew Roberts’ nomination for associate justice, nominated Samuel Alito to become associate justice to succeed retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Conner, and nominated Roberts to become chief justice, succeeding Rehnquist.
“Chief Justice John Roberts authored the majority opinion in Shelby County of Alabama v. Holder, a decision that struck down Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.”
In 2013, Chief Justice John Roberts authored the majority opinion in Shelby County of Alabama v. Holder, a decision that struck down Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Under Section 2, changes to election procedures made by jurisdictions with a history of voter suppression and intimidation were required to undergo “preclearance” by the Justice Department to ensure they did not adversely impact voting rights by marginalized persons.
Since the decision in Shelby County v. Holder, Republican-led efforts to impose photo identification requirements as a condition to voting, redraw voting precincts, reduce polling locations, relocate precincts, limit the time and conditions for early voting, and change the procedures for casting absentee ballots have been enacted across the United States. Most of those have been implemented in states where voting by Black, Latinx, students, immigrants and others resulted in the 2008 election of Barack Obama.
When Justice Antonin Scalia died in 2015, white evangelical Christian conservatives supported Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s refusal to hold confirmation hearings for then Judge Merrick Garland, Obama’s nominee to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court caused by Scalia’s death. McConnell insisted that a confirmation hearing for Garland was not proper given the approaching 2016 presidential election.
After Donald Trump was elected president, white evangelical Christian conservatives celebrated when President Trump nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch to succeed Justice Scalia.
When Justice Anthony Kennedy retired from the Supreme Court in July 2018, white Christian conservatives were further encouraged when Trump nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh to be confirmed to succeed Justice Kennedy. In doing so, they disregarded allegations that Kavanaugh had been complicit in offensive behavior toward women as a young man.
White Christian conservatives had been similarly dismissive about the allegation by Professor Anita Hill during the 1991 confirmation hearing for Judge Clarence Thomas that Thomas engaged in sexual harassment when they were co-workers.
Until Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died in September 2020, two months before the 2020 presidential election, the conservative wing of the Supreme Court held a slim 5-4 majority consisting of Justices Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, with Chief Justice Roberts sometimes being a swing vote on certain issues (for example upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act popularly known as “Obamacare.”) When Ginsburg died, President Trump quickly nominated and Majority Leader McConnell pushed through a confirmation hearing for Judge Amy Coney Barrett to succeed Ginsburg before the November 2020 election.
Justice Barrett joined the Supreme Court on Oct. 27, 2020, to the delight of white Christian evangelical conservatives. Her addition to the court created a 6-3 conservative majority consisting of Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Barrett. They are hostile to the exercise of federal power to protect civil liberties, including voting rights, equality for LGBTQ persons, the freedom of women and girls to exercise reproductive choice concerning abortion, voting rights, and freedom from state-sanctioned religious activities.
I use the term “Hateful Faithful” to describe white religious conservatives. The Hateful Faithful have long craved the power to define the role and reach of government. Their goal is to prevent people of color, women, LGBTQ persons, workers, and immigrants from upsetting their vision of a “well-ordered” society defined by notions of white male Christian supremacy.
The Hateful Faithful celebrated the leaked draft of a majority opinion by Justice Alito to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision.
The Hateful Faithful supported Donald Trump and attempted to block his two impeachments.
The Hateful Faithful supported the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, objected to investigations about it, and are casting the insurrectionists as patriots.
The Hateful Faithful are not motivated by love of God and neighbors. They crave authoritarian power exercised by cisgender white Christian conservative men and their designees.
The Hateful Faithful are the faces and voices of fascism in the United States. They are the result of generations of recruiting, fundraising, policy development and activism dedicated to the paleoconservative vision of the John Birch Society, Strom Thurmond’s Dixiecrats, Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority, George Wallace’s “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever” hostility to desegregated public education, and Phyliss Schlafly’s Eagle Forum.
“The Hateful Faithful are the faces and voices of fascism in the United States.”
Ultimately, the Hateful Faithful are consumed by lust for authoritarian power, not devotion to inclusive democracy. The Jan. 6 insurrection, continued popularity of Donald Trump, ongoing effort to suppress voting rights, and leaked opinion by Justice Alito show what the Hateful Faithful believe, what they are willing to do and how much their lust for power has been underestimated.
It is time for the rest of the nation and world to admit a bitter truth. Hateful Faithful devotion to white religious-based fascism and white supremacy is a clear and present threat to democracy in the U.S. and peace and justice across the world.
Wendell Griffen is an Arkansas circuit judge and pastor of New Millennium Church in Little Rock, Ark.
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