Tuesday, March 17, 2020 : By David Harris, Falkirk Fellow
Christians like myself sincerely care about America’s deeply rooted tradition of religious liberty, including the right to worship God in alignment with our respective beliefs, to practice those beliefs, and to keep our church organizations tax-exempt and prevent government interference. Part of the way Christians make a footprint in the political sphere regarding religious liberty is in the support of judges who interpret the Constitution as it was intended, rather than those who seek to “update” the Constitution to fit the mold of secular culture. From a practical point of view, this obviously means that evangelical Christians must support presidential candidates who pledge to appoint traditionalist judges to the federal judiciary.
It’s no surprise that over 81 percent of evangelical Christians supported President Trump in November of 2016. And unlike prior Republican presidents, Donald Trump has delivered on his promise to reshape the federal judiciary in a truly impressive way. Over 190 judges have already been appointed to the federal judiciary, including 50 to the appeals court and, most notably, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. By the end of this president’s term, at least a quarter of the entire federal judiciary will be filled with Trump appointees.
These appointments have made a tremendous impact for Christians who care about religious liberty. For example, the 9th circuit court of appeals, a court that used to be predominantly liberal, has been flipped to a more traditional makeup of judges by the Trump administration. Just recently, the 9th circuit reversed the ruling of a lower court, allowing the Trump administration to prevent taxpayer-funded abortion providers, such as Planned Parenthood, to provide abortion referrals. Under these conditions, organizations receiving Title X funding from the federal government must provide alternative options to the patient, even if the patient doesn’t want them.
While many progressives have sought to defend organizations such as Planned Parenthood by arguing that their services are helpful for women, their primary purpose is to perform abortions, and they continue to politicize the abortion issue with their deep pockets and media supporters. Evangelical Christians, understandably, oppose this issue, and the judges appointed by the Trump administration are helping to stem the tide of abortion-on-demand rulings in the United States.
In June of 2019, the Supreme Court decided in a five-to-four decision that a 40-foot cross honoring victims of World War I could stay on state property. Atheist groups sought to attack the cross’s presence, claiming it violated both the establishment clause and free exercise clause of the Constitution. However, the court found that their interpretation of the Constitution was incorrect. This decision would not have happened had it not been for the votes of Kavanaugh and Gorsuch.
These are just two examples of recent battles for religious liberty that have been won in the Trump era, and they demonstrate just how impactful a traditional judiciary can be. Without Christians making their voices heard in support of a leader who promised conservative judicial appointments, we’d have judges appointed by Hillary Clinton—judges who likely would have decided to remove the cross in Maryland and ensure that taxpayer dollars go towards abortion on demand.
Christians cannot afford to be silent and bemoan the rise of leftism, worried more about causing division than taking a stand. We must speak out “at such a time as this” and be representatives of Christ in all areas of life, including the public sphere, to prevent disastrous consequences. Let’s follow the example of Esther to protect our beliefs and take action, supporting leaders who will defend our values and keep their promises.
Donald Trump is appointing federal judges at a blistering pace. (2020, February). Retrieved March 1, 2020, from https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2020/02/14/donald-trump-is-appointing-federal-judges-at-a-blistering-pace
Liptak, A. (2019, June 20). Supreme Court Allows 40-Foot Peace Cross on State Property. Retrieved March 1, 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/20/us/politics/maryland-peace-cross-supreme-court.html
Wilson, C. (2020, February 24). 9th Circuit Allows Trump Administration Abortion Rules To Move Forward. Retrieved March 1, 2020, from https://www.opb.org/news/article/9th-circuit-trump-administration-abortion-rules/