Right-Wingers Love Kavanaugh, With a Big Exception

Brett Kavanaugh

The far right is pretty much over the moon about Donald Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh for Supreme Court justice, and one has walked back its objections after its supporters raised concerns.

The walk-back came from the rabidly anti-LGBT, antichoice American Family Association, which had initially opposed Kavanaugh, finding him insufficiently conservative.

The AFA had opposed the elevation of Kavanaugh, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, to the Supreme Court because “we are deeply concerned about how he might ultimately rule on issues related to abortion and religious liberty,” said a statement on the AFA’s website. “For these reasons, we consider this nomination to represent a four-star appointment when it could have been five-star.

“However, after hearing the concerns of some of our supporters, and after hearing the passionate defense of Judge Kavanaugh by many we consider to be friends in the pro-life movement, we are willing to let this process play out. We eagerly await the confirmation hearings when we hope to get clarification from Judge Kavanaugh on aspects related to our concerns. At this time, we have no plans to fight President Trump on this nomination.”

The AFA’s concerns about the solidly conservative Kavanaugh rose out of his allowance that “the Government has a compelling interest in facilitating access to contraception for the employees of … religious organizations,” something he based on the Supreme Court’s finding in Hobby Lobby’s challenge to the Affordable Care Act’s mandate for employers to cover contraceptives in employee health insurance plans. He made that statement in his dissent in a similar case before the D.C. Circuit, Priests for Life v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Priests for Life, a Roman Catholic group, objected to the ACA mandate as well, but the court majority found that an opt-out provision, letting insurers rather than employers fund the coverage, was sufficient to distance the group from something that went against its religious dogma. Kavanaugh disagreed, saying this was not the least restrictive means of accommodating religious objections, but he did allow that the Hobby Lobby ruling suggested there was a compelling government interest in contraceptive access.

"Although Judge Kavanaugh decided correctly in court case Priests for Life v. US Dep't of Health & Human Services, he wrote a moderate opinion disagreeing with the Priests on a foundational constitutional religious liberty principle," read the original statement from AFA president Tim Wildmon, now taken down but quoted by the Christian Broadcasting Network and other sources. "Judge Kavanaugh unnecessarily conceded in his opinion that the government has a compelling interest to force religious organizations to provide contraceptives and abortifacients for employees. Kavanaugh's concession created a dangerous precedent."

Other right-wing groups had no such objctions. A sampling of their comments on Kavanaugh:

"For a second time, President Trump has followed through on his promise to select a nominee from the list he presented during the campaign. President Trump promised a constitutionalist -- someone who will call balls and strikes according to the Constitution. We trust the president that Judge Kavanaugh will fit this mold as a justice. Judge Kavanaugh has a long and praiseworthy history of judging as an originalist, and we look forward to having a justice with his philosophical approach on the Court. … Under the Obama administration, we saw a growing assault on religious freedom and the courts became a battleground for secularists seeking to remove faith from the public square. Judge Kavanaugh resisted this trend in at least two instances -- an HHS contraceptive mandate case and in an opinion supporting inauguration prayers. from the public square. Judge Kavanaugh resisted this trend in at least two instances -- an HHS contraceptive mandate case and in an opinion supporting inauguration prayers.” –Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council

“I support the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. As he has repeatedly stated, his judicial philosophy is simple – judges must interpret the law, not make it. It is the right of the people, not judges, to amend the Constitution and the laws. Judge Kavanaugh is the right kind of judge we need on the bench.” --  Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel

“During his presidential campaign, President Trump promised to nominate judges in the mold of the late, great Justice Antonin Scalia. That was one of the main reasons why conservative women turned out for President Trump in such great numbers. The president delivered on that promise with Justice Neil Gorsuch, and he has delivered once again with soon-to-be Justice Brett Kavanaugh.” -- Penny Nance, CEO and president of Concerned Women for America

“President Trump has made another outstanding choice in nominating Judge Brett Kavanaugh to replace Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, keeping his promise to nominate only originalist judges to the Court. Judge Kavanaugh is an experienced, principled jurist with a strong record of protecting life and constitutional rights.” -- Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List

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