A U.S. congressional panel heard Thursday from an evangelical minister that he had run a campaign that allowed him to influence the U.S. Supreme Court. This “pushed the boundaries” of Christian ethics and enabled him to discover about a significant 2014 ruling before others.
After telling The New York Times about his knowledge of the Burwell-v. Hobby Lobby ruling from an ally conservative, the Reverend Robert Schenck made a brief appearance before the Democratic-led House Judiciary Committee. He said that he had been invited to dinner at Justice Samuel Alito’s home with his wife.
Religious conservatives rejoiced at the 2014 ruling, which exempted family owned businesses from federal requirements that all health insurance provided to employees must include coverage for birth control.
Schenck claimed that he was aware of the ruling before it happened. He launched an influence campaign called “Operation Higher Court”, in which wealthy couples were recruited to be “stealth missionsaries” for the court’s conservative justices.
He testified to the subpoena that “our overarching goals were gaining insights into conservative justices’ thinking and strengthening their resolve to render firm, unapologetic views, especially against abortion.”
Schenck has now disavowed many anti-abortion and conservative views. He said that he was informed about Hobby Lobby’s ruling by Alito, one of the “stealth missionaries”. Justice has not admitted to leaking the decision.
Schenck stated that he spoke to the media only after Politico obtained a copy of the final ruling in June, which overturned the 1973 Roe V Wade decision that legalized abortion across the country.
Alito was the author of that decision (Dobbs. v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization) and Hobby Lobby’s one. Schenck claimed he came forward because he was afraid that the Supreme Court could take unfair blame for this year’s leak.
Chief Justice John Roberts ordered the Supreme Court marshal to look into the Dobbs leak, calling it “betrayal.” Alito claimed that the leak in Dobbs this year placed him and his coworkers at risk of being assassinated.
Democratic legislators said Schenck’s account highlighted the need to pass legislation that would require the U.S. Supreme Court (which now has a conservative majority of 6-3) to adopt an ethics code. This is something lower-level federal courts lack, but it’s something the Supreme Court does not have.
Schenck stated that “I think we overstepped the bounds of Christian ethics” and had compromised the promise of equal justice by the high court. “But, I am also aware that we weren’t reprimanded for doing the kind of work missionaries performed.”
The hearing saw Republicans question Schenck’s story, calling it unfounded hearsay. Democrats tried to discredit Alito by using the hearing as an opportunity for them to attack his rulings. California Representative Darrell Issa stated that the story of the minister was unsupported, uncorroborated, and in question.