I’m saddened, but not surprised, to learn that, according to a Rolling Stone report, some of the justices have been involved with prayer meetings on the grounds of the Supreme Court with folks from Liberty Counsel.

I consider that behavior inappropriate for a judge.

Judges are certainly free to hold personal religious beliefs and to engage in personal religious expression, including prayer. However, one would hope that judges would refrain from making judicial chambers or other resources available on behalf of any partisan – be that partisan a religious or non-religious entity.

At minimum, it invites concern about whether the jurist has granted the partisan more favorable access than other litigants. Moreover, the Model Code of Judicial Conduct contains a rule that prohibits a judge from permitting external influences on judicial conduct.

The Arkansas version is Rule 2.4(B) of the Arkansas Code of Judicial Conduct, which states: “A judge shall not permit family, social, political, financial, or other interests or relationships to influence the judge’s judicial conduct or judgment.”

After reading the Rolling Stone article, it is understandable that some people might question whether the justices who held prayer sessions in the Supreme Court with people from Liberty Counsel followed that ethical mandate.

More than two decades ago, I appeared on a panel discussion at Marquette University School of Law as part of a conference the Marquette Law Review hosted on religious values and judicial decision-making. My comments on that subject were published by the Marquette Law Review.

Liberty Counsel sends complimentary copies of its magazine to judges’ chambers. I see them, but seldom read them for the same reasons that I do not read many bar journal articles: I don’t have time to read them.

I don’t need to read them to do my work. And I don’t want to use valuable time and energy on those materials that could – and should – be focused on deliberating about and deciding the cases on my court docket.

However, even if I were to read some of the articles, I would not countenance inviting Liberty Counsel writers, or any other activists, to my chambers for prayer.

That said, I am not surprised about the Rolling Stone reporting. There has been an open effort to proselytize the judiciary for religious and economic policy purposes since Franklin Delano Roosevelt advanced policies to provide a social safety net.

That effort intensified after the 1954 SCOTUS decision in Brown v. Board of Education, and it is more prevalent than is commonly known.

I encourage readers to read Nancy MacLean’s award-winning book Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America (Penguin Books, 2017).

MacLean’s book reveals that the situation reported in the Rolling Stone article is merely a fraction of the way anti-democratic actors and forces have been working to subvert (and pervert) the idea of the United States as a just and inclusive society.

I predict that the situation will worsen. The six-member conservative “super majority” on the Supreme Court is going to implement Robert Bork’s vision for American jurisprudence, as I explained in a recent Baptist News Global article.

My message to faithful people who also believe the U.S. should be a pluralist society is that they should become involved in opposing the longstanding efforts of white Christian nationalists, free market fundamentalists, pro-Zionist imperialists and white patriarchal militarists to return U.S. society to the pre-civil rights era.

The present state of the Supreme Court proves that democracy in the U.S. faces the greatest threat to survival we have known in almost a century.

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