Pastor to Congress: 2014 Supreme Court leak pushed limits of Christian ethics
A pastor told a U.S congressional panel on Thursday he believed he pushed the boundaries of Christian ethics when he learned in advance of a landmark 2014 Supreme Court decision that exempted some companies from insuring employees for birth control. Reverend Rob Schenck previously told the New York Times that he was informed of the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby ruling weeks before its public announcement after two conservative allies of his dined at the home of Justice Samuel Alito and his wife. Alito has denied any part in it.
Schenck, who has since disavowed many of his socially conservative stances, spoke on Thursday at a House Judiciary Committee hearing titled "Undue Influence: Operation Higher Court and Politicking at SCOTUS." The 2014 decision was a victory for religious conservatives, as it exempted family-owned businesses that objected on religious grounds from a federal requirement that any health insurance they provide to employees must cover birth control for women.
Decisions by the high court are typically shrouded in secrecy until the justices issue their opinions, which range from technical decisions on fine aspects of the law to sweeping rulings that change life for millions of Americans. Prominent Democrats have called for increased oversight at the Supreme Court, which now has a 6-3 conservative majority that includes three appointees of Republican former President Donald Trump.
Unlike lower-level federal courts, justices are not bound by a formal code of ethics, which Democratic lawmakers say makes them susceptible to influence peddling and conflicts of interest. "I believe we pushed the boundaries of Christian ethics and compromised the high court's promise to administer equal justice," Schenck said in his opening statement.
"But I'm also conscious we were never admonished for the type of work our missionaries did." Republicans have called into question Schenck's account, dismissing it as unfounded hearsay, and criticized Democrats for failing to express the same level of alarm after a leak earlier this year of a decision overturning a woman's right to abortion.
In that case, a majority opinion written by Alito and overturning the landmark 1973 Roe v Wade decision that had legalized abortion nationwide was leaked to Politico. U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts directed the Supreme Court's marshal to investigate the leak, calling it a "betrayal."
Justice Alito, an intellectual hero for some conservatives, would later say the leak this year put him and his colleagues at risk of assassination. In interviews with the Times, Schenck described a campaign to gain access to justices through elaborate networking schemes and donations to third-party institutions.
Schenck on Thursday said he was motivated to come forward out of fear that Supreme Court staff could unfairly take the blame for the Dobbs leak.
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)