The former leader of a religious right organization said he recruited and coached wealthy volunteers including a prominent Dayton, Ohio, evangelical couple to wine, dine and entertain conservative Supreme Court justices while pushing conservative positions on abortion, homosexuality, gun restrictions and other issues.
Rob Schenck, an evangelical minister who headed the Faith and Action group headquartered near the Supreme Court from 1995 to 2018, said he arranged over the years for about 20 couples to fly to Washington to visit with and entertain Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and the late Antonin Scalia.
Schenck, who was once an anti-abortion activist but broke with the religious right in the last decade over its aggressive tactics and support for gun rights, said the couples were instructed before the dinners to use certain phrases to influence the justices while steering clear of the specifics of cases pending before the court — for example, to “talk about the importance of a child having a father and a mother,” rather than engage in the particulars of a gay-rights case.
“We would rehearse lines like, ‘We believe you are here for a time like this,’” which is a reference to the Old Testament Book of Esther in which the Hebrew woman born with the name Hadassah becomes queen of Persia and succeeds in preventing a genocide of her people.
Schenck said the goal was to create an ecosystem of support for conservative justices, as a way of making them more forthright in their views.
The previously undisclosed initiative by Faith and Action illustrates the extent to which some Supreme Court justices interacted with advocates for the religious right during a period when the court grappled with social issues such as abortion and gay rights. The calculated nature of Faith and Action’s efforts shows how outside actors can use social activities and expensive dinners to penetrate the court’s highly sealed environment. [Continue reading…]