Hope and a Prayer: Liberals Condemn the Conservative Justices After Dubious Rolling Stone Article

There was an extraordinary story this week out of Rolling Stone magazine, which breathlessly reported a “serious matter” of an allegation that Supreme Court justices prayed with evangelicals, including some associated with groups that filed amicus briefs with the Court. Many liberal sites went immediately into instant vapors at the thought of justices praying with such individuals, including the usual unhinged claims of ethical violations and renewed calls for everything from court packing to impeachments. What is clear is that the critics will require more than this “hope and a prayer” to achieve such ends.

Politics reporter Kara Voght wrote that Peggy Nienaber, vice president of the ministry group Faith & Liberty, admitted that she has prayed with Supreme Court justices in a video after the overturning of Roe v. Wade:

“This disclosure was a serious matter on its own terms, but it also suggested a major conflict of interest. Nienaber’s ministry’s umbrella organization, Liberty Counsel, frequently brings lawsuits before the Supreme Court. In fact, the conservative majority in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, which ended nearly 50 years of federal abortion rights, cited an amicus brief authored by Liberty Counsel in its ruling. In other words, sitting Supreme Court justices have prayed together with evangelical figures whose bosses were bringing cases and arguments before the high court.”

The brief in question was on behalf of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, led by its President, Rev. Samuel Rodriguez; the Frederick Douglass Foundation, led by Chairman Dean Nelson; Rev. Alveda King, President of Speak for Life; Deacon Keith Fournier, Esq., of the Common Good Foundation; and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tyler.

There is a reference to the brief in a footnote that raises a historical claim:

“Other amicus briefs present arguments about the motives of proponents of liberal access to abortion. They note that some such supporters have been motivated by a desire to suppress the size of the AfricanAmerican population. See Brief for African-American Organization et al. as Amici Curiae 14–21.”

After I challenged the claims last night, various people wrote to insist that this is a violation of “the separation of church and state” or clearly a violation of judicial ethics. It is neither.

First, thousands of groups and individuals participate in amicus or “friends of the Court” briefs every year. That does not make them parties in interest for the purposes of judicial ethics.

Almost 150 groups filed with the Court as amicus, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Six of the nine justices (Roberts, Thomas, Alito, Sotomayor, Kavanaugh and Barrett) are Catholic and pray every Sunday in the church with other Catholics. Is that unethical?

The outrage seems rather selection. I do not recall the Rolling Stone summing law professors to denounce Justice Sotomayor for calling for students to organize against abortion laws that might come before the Court.

Second, it is not even clear when or if such prayer occurred. Liberty Counsel’s founder, Mat Staver denies any knowledge of such sessions with the justices . Nienaber later stressed that her off-the-record

“comment was referring to past history and not practice of the past several years. During most of the history up to early 2020, I met with many people who wanted or needed prayer. Since early 2020, access to the Supreme Court has been restricted due to COVID. It has been many years since I prayed with a Justice.”

Voght quotes Rob Schenck, who originally founded the group and denounced the praying. However, he left the group in 2018 and said that he had no knowledge of such praying sessions. Nevertheless, Schenck declared “[t]o pray with the justices was to perform a sort of ‘spiritual conditioning.’ … Prayer is a powerful communication tool in the evangelical tradition: The speaker assumes the mantle of the divine, and to disagree with an offered prayer is akin to sin.”

It could also just be a prayer by religious people. It happens in hundreds of thousands of churches, synagogues, mosques, temples and public events around the world every day.

It is an ironic position since the Court just voted that a football coach has a right to pray after a game. Such prayer was rejected as a form of government speech or having any coercive impact on players. However, this would suggest that the justices themselves cannot ethically pray at any time with anyone who belongs to a group that might file with the Supreme Court, including the Catholic Church.

The article states

“Nienaber was recorded telling the livestreamer that she prayed with Supreme Court justices on June 27, the Monday after the high court issued the Dobbs ruling.” Simply as a factual matter, Nienaber insisted “I do not recall making such a statement. I listened to the livestream, and I did not hear such a statement…The public has not been allowed access, and I am no different. I will generally silently pray for the justices, their staff, and the Court.”

However, putting the facts aside, I am more interested in the take of Louis Virelli. a professor at Stetson University College of Law, who insisted that “Praying with a group that filed an amicus brief with a court is a problem.” It would seem to me that whether such praying is problematic would depend on the specifics. Generally praying with a group that is an amicus is not a problem. Otherwise, the attending of  Catholic services would be a problem for six out of the nine justices.

The “problem” would be joining a party to pray about the specific outcome of a case, which no one is suggesting occurred. Indeed, there is no indication that such prayers even occurred during the pendency of the case and no indication of what such prayers entailed in terms of the forum or the subject.

Indeed, at the end of the article, the author quotes Adam Winkler, a Supreme Court expert at the University of California Los Angeles, as noting that

“For Winkler, the greater concern is not prayers, but the “religious-themed” decisions he’s seen come down from the high court this term, pointing to not only the Roe reversal but also opinions that permit unchecked free exercise of First Amendment rights. “The problematic aspect isn’t whether they’re praying,” Winkler says, “but that several justices seem committed to reading their religion into the Constitution.”

That objection to the constitutional views of the justices is a revealing conclusion to the article. While I understand Professor Winkler’s personal and intellectual objection to the outcome of these cases, it is an entirely unfair attack on the integrity of these six justices. They are not “reading their religion into the Constitution” by supporting prayer for all religions in the Kennedy decision or returning the question of abortion to the states in the Dobbs decision. One can clearly disagree with their constitutional interpretative approach, but they are applying a jurisprudential approach that is entirely unrelated to their personal faith.

So the Rolling Stone ran an article that unnamed justices may have prayed at some point with people associated with a group that has filed briefs with the Court. Putting aside the lack of essential factual foundation, there is no serious ethical breach raised by the article.

However, the article may have succeeded in uncovering for the first time in history what justices silently prayed for. They appeared to have collectively followed Voltaire’s advice: “I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: ‘O Lord make my enemies ridiculous.’ And God granted it.”

153 thoughts on “Hope and a Prayer: Liberals Condemn the Conservative Justices After Dubious Rolling Stone Article”

  1. Why would anyone even read rolling stone it’s unreadable it’s not fit to line your bird cage your bird won’t even crap on it

  2. Anonymous the Sane, Svelaz and Jeff: Have you noticed something going on in this chatroom? It has been gradual but notice how the usual characters have been increasingly strident in their attacks on us–often responding to US not to what Turley has to say on any subject. They would obviously prefer we would provide an echo chamber for Turley–and the fact we don’t is driving them crazy. In a reaction to my comment about the fall out from the Dobbs decision the OTHER “Anonymous” bizarrely said he thinks I would be “happy when Kavanaugh is dead…is that what you want to see?”. We may be outnumbered but not out-gunned–probably not the best metaphor these days but you get the point. Now, judging from the reaction, you guys are dominating the discussion. Keep it up because facts do matter. As Elie Wiesel famously said: “Always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim”.

  3. To our Hispanic friends out there. According to those on the left Supreme Court Justices should not be allowed to pray with your religious leaders. This is who they are.

  4. Well this is good news!

    By the same token, it was not the good will of a U.S. president that created a State Department International Religious Freedom Ambassadorship, but an act of Congress. The State Department had never held an International Religious Freedom ministerial when Secretary Pompeo and Ambassador Sam Brownback directed their staff to organize and host the first one in 2018. The second in 2019 was the largest human rights event ever held at Foggy Bottom.

    The United Nations had never hosted a religious-freedom-focused session as part of the General Assembly before President Trump decided to host such a session, much to the chagrin of many bureaucrats. There is now a multilateral alliance of 36 countries to protect and promote freedom of religious belief around the world. Such a partnership was only reluctantly accepted by international institutions and members of the international system.

    It is agency of critical individuals, guided by a commitment to freedom of conscience, that is needed to promote and protect religious freedom.
    https://www.theamericanconservative.com/the-growing-international-movement-for-religious-freedom/

  5. If it’s in Rolling Stone it has to be true.(where is the sarcasm font?)

    Alas, this appears to be a modern example of gonzo journalism that fails to meet the standards of the late Dr. Hunter S. Thompson.

  6. The Supreme Court is finally getting around to performing its duties.

    The Supreme Court recently took retroactive corrective action, going back 50 years.

    The Supreme Court must now go back 14, 100 and 150 years to correct all the clear constitutional violations of Lincoln, Wilson, Roosevelt, Johnson, and Obama.

    Congress has the power to tax for ONLY “…general Welfare…” not individual welfare, specific welfare, particular welfare, favor or charity.

    Congress cannot deny the right of private property owners to “claim and exercise dominion,” causing affirmative action, rent control, fair housing, non-discrimination, etc., etc., to be unconstitutional.

    Secession was and is fully constitutional, it is precisely what the American Founders effected, its denial was unconstitutional, and all subsequent acts of Lincoln were and remain unconstitutional and illegitimate.

    The entire communist American welfare state must be rescinded and abrogated, and all the effects of Lincoln must be rescinded and abrogated.

    The Supreme Court must eliminate every last vestige of all principles of communism from America.

    The Supreme Court must obey its sworn oath and re-implement and support the “manifest tenor” of the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

    1. Immigration law on January 1, 1863, was the Naturalization Act of 1802, which was in full force and effect.

      Clearly, Lincoln violated federal immigration law, among his many other illicit and unconstitutional exploits.

  7. “In fact, the conservative majority in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, which ended nearly 50 years of federal abortion rights,…”
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Indeed, there have never been “federal abortion rights.”

    That statement is erroneous and made of ignorance, or for inflammatory proposes.

    It would appear that Congress and States may legislate the legality of abortion.

    1. The related article is disingenuous, false, bereft of any credibility, and worthy of being completely ignored.

      1. Most of your comments are disingenuous, false, bereft of any credibility, and worthy of being completely ignored.

  8. Jonathan: On a different topic you probably heard that Boris Johnson just resigned as Britain’s PM. Why? Because he is a liar. The NY Times described Johnson this way: “Over the years, he has routinely been described as mendacious, irresponsible, reckless and lacking any coherent coherent philosophy other than wanting to to seize and hold on to power”. A former Conservative MP described Johnson this way: “He’s probably the best liar we’ve had as a prime minister. He knows a hundred different ways to lie”. No wonder Johnson and Donald Trump got along so well. Of course, if you lie a lot in Britain you can be forced to resign public office. Here in the US Trump didn’t have to worry about his conservative brethren in the GOP forcing him to resign because of all his lies. It took the electorate to do that. I understand Johnson is thinking of leaving the British Isles and moving to Palm Beach–close to Mar-a-Lago where he will find a more congenial environment–and listening approvingly to Trump going on endlessly about how the election was “stolen” from him. Mendacity is all the rage at Mar-a-Lago!

    1. “Over the years, he has routinely been described as mendacious, irresponsible, reckless and lacking any coherent coherent philosophy other than wanting to to seize and hold on to power”

      That’s the democrat party platform.

      This is the one year anniversary of Biden’s press conference about getting out of Afghanistan. Every answer he gave to a question from the media was a lie.

    2. Dennis, will you all be happy when Kavanaugh is dead? After he’s been assassinated like Abe in Japan? Is that what you all want to see?

      We know it is. Nothing you say will hide that truth.

      The Democrat party of Pelosi and Schumer is evil, they are sick, they are liars, they are lawless, they are the mob, they MUST BE STOPPED in November.

    3. Dennis: If Dems tell the public one thing in 2008, and another thing in 2012, or 2016, or 2020, Is that lying. When it was politically correct to get elected, Dems were anti-same sex marriage. Most Dems including , Obama, Biden, Liberman, et als, have done so many 180 degree flips that now Joe B is here:

      “Sleepy Joe Just Reads What He’s Told”: If it were not for the dystopian effect, it would be halious, but it is sad and pathetic.

      Biden Reads ‘End Of Quote, Repeat The Line’ Off Teleprompter In Latest Viral Gaffe

    4. *****
      HIGHLIGHTS – New Art From Hunter Biden Released

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      Short on time, but still want to stay informed? Today’s War Room Highlights covers clips from all 3 hours of the broadcast with your host Owen Shroyer along with special guests Tyler Bennett and Jesse Lee Peterson!

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      1. Appently not only did Biden deliver oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to foreign countries, But Hunter Biden participated and profited from some of the deals.

    5. Boris Johnson is framed by the left as much like Trump.

      But they are not alike.

      While Johnson gained accolades from the right – both in britian and the US by accomplishing Brexit, on most other ways he had little in common with Trump.

      Johnson Briefly fought the state use of Covid to expand power over peoples lives, but quickly reveresed and embraced it.
      Trump did not.

      Ultimately Johnson was a statist. Johnson’s resignation is the result of mass defections by CONSERVATIVES – who are likely to remain in control in the UK post Johnson.

      Johnson has lost the support of his own.

      Trump is right now the most popular major politician in the US.
      He has retained the support of conservatives.

      The only Republican with near Trump’s support by other republlicans is Ron DeSantis, and DeSantis and Trump both compete for the support of the same audience.

      Trump has had an effect on the Republican party much like that of Reagan, or that of Thatcher in the UK. Johnson may have delivered Brexit, but he does not otherwise unify his party and they country behind any values.

      Johnson is just another British prime minister with one notable accomplishment. Trump unified, expanded and transformed the GOP.

  9. Jonathan: When Roberts, Thomas, Alito, Kavanaugh and Barrett, Catholics one and all, overturned Roe that was a direct conflict of interest. Do you think the gang of 5 would have voted the same way had they been agnostics or atheists? In praying with Christian evangelicals after the decision they were simply confirming what motivated them and what everyone knew all along. I agree with professor Winkler: “The problematic aspect isn’t whether they’re praying but that several justices seem committed to reading their religion into the Constitution”. And it’s ludicrous for you to argue that the majority in Dobbs was simply “applying a jurisprudential approach that is entirely unrelated to their personal faith”. If you really believe that I have a bridge in SF to sell you!

    This aside we are witnessing more fall out from Dobbs and the unintended consequences the majority should have anticipated. As discussed in a previous comment Judaism holds life begins at birth–not conception. Apparently a Jewish congregation in Florida got my memo because they are suing the state over its 15 week abortion ban, claiming it violates their religious liberty. Many legal experts believe the suit has merit. The SC just ruled a football coach has the right to have his players, family member and friends kneel and pray after every football game based on religious freedom. So the Jewish congregation in Florida is claiming the same right–a religious exemption to the abortion ban. Michael Helfan, professor of religion and ethics at Pepperdine’s Caruso Law School, says: “There’s a strong argument that [courts] would also have to grant a religious exemption given the requirements of Jewish law” Other experts say abortion bans violate the 1st Amendment right to the free exercise of religion and separation of church and state. Lawsuits are being filed in other states. “Catholics for Choice” [yes there are Catholics who do not agree with Church dogma on abortion] are joining the fray. Even the Satanic Temple in Texas has filed suit against the state’s abortion ban.

    It’s only a matter of time before an appropriate case reaches the SC. If a football coach can get a religious exemption why not a Jewish woman or a member of the Satanic Temple? The Catholic justices have opened a can of worms. The genie is out of the box and neither Alito nor Thomas can put it back. Which, once again, proves the law of unintended consequences. The only people who will benefit from the Dobbs decision will be the lawyers. Maybe that’s what you wanted all along!

    1. Do you think the gang of 5 would have voted the same way had they been agnostics or atheists?

      We don’t have to guess. we have their written decisions. I can say they would have ruled exactly the same. Because their ruling is based on the Constitution. Not Religion

      1. Iowan2, they didn’t base their ruling on the constitution. They based it in their chosen doctrine which relies on their religious views. They contorted the constitution to fit their religious biases.

        1. Better yet, read the dissent.

          The 3 dissenters based their entire dissent on Stare Decisis. Not a constitutional argument to be found

    2. Dennis,

      Yours “is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, [yet] signifying nothing.”

      You could have simply stated that since the decision on abortion has been pushed back to the States the challenges to various State laws and State Constitutions has begun in earnest. That you did not anticipate this is obvious, to assume that others did not anticipate this is ludicrous.

      The “Lawfare” that you describe is the favored tactic of the left in the 21st century. When the left cannot legislate a desired outcome, as is often the case, they attempt to litigate the desired outcome. This is what your are describing.

  10. Placing Virginia Lt Gov Winsome Sears and Pastor Jerone Davison on a Presidential ticket would be brilliant. Not sure if Davison’s CV as an NFL Football player and church Pastor fulfill the job requirements but at least he is lucid, unlike the current occupant of the White House. The first ones to denounce them would be the racist Left. They would hate to see a black female USMC Vet and a black Christian pastor hold a pair of AR15 rifles to Democrats political accomplishments.

    😉

    1. Trump is planning to run again for the GOP nomination. I’d love to see them debate Trump, but if you think that Republicans will choose them, you’re dreaming.

      1. Trump is planning to run again for the GOP nomination.

        REGARDING ABOVE:

        Commenter goes by dozens of sock puppet accounts but his more secretive identities are better characterized as:

        – Houdini
        – Carnac the Magnificent
        – Great and Powerful Oz of Wizard of Oz
        – He who knows all, sees all and is a legend in his own mancave

        😉

  11. It is and was said, that George Washington would dismount his horse and go kneel in the woods and pray. Read the book “The Miracles of Geo Washington”. If one is not convienced that perhaps God gave those leaders in the evolution process of the originating of America, miracles, well you are a lost cause.. All you phonies who are scared defecationaless from this fact should back off of the premises that America was not founded on Christian principles. As each new community in America developed, one of the first buildings to rise was God forebid; a Church. That is ipso facto. Don’t ask me if I have ever seen GOD> I have never seen the Wind, but I have seen the effects of the wind.

    1. Name a principle that you consider a “Christian principle” and show that it’s not a principle of any other religions.

      Ask yourself why the Founders chose to use terms like “Providence,” “the Creator,” “the Ruler of Great Events,” and “Nature’s God” instead of referring to Christ.

      1. Anon: Thou shalt not kill. islamist book states; if one cah not be converted to islam or utilized as a tax base then that one should be beheaded. Thou shalt not covet. Do I have to splain that to youy?

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