Behind Mike Pence and the Christian right's 'disappointment' with John Roberts

The Christian right has a long history of railing against Supreme Court justices who were nominated by Republican presidents but weren’t the far-right culture warriors they anticipated — and now, social conservatives have turned their ire on Chief Justice John Roberts, appointed by President George W. Bush in 2005. The Christian right is furious with Roberts for siding with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and other liberals in cases having to do with a Louisiana anti-abortion law, as well as one involving LGBTQ rights in the workplace, and Vice President Mike Pence expressed his “disappointment” with Roberts during an interview with David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network.

Pence told Brody, “We have great respect for the institution of the Supreme Court of the United States, but Chief Justice John Roberts has been a disappointment to conservatives whether it be the Obamacare decision or whether it be a spate of recent decisions.”

President Donald Trump has promised the Christian right he would only nominate conservatives along the lines of Justice Clarence Thomas and the late Antonin Scalia — and the two justices he has brought to the High Court so far, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, are often of that ilk. Yet Gorsuch, much to the chagrin of the Christian right, wrote the majority 6-3 opinion in Bostock v. Clayton County and ruled that LGBTQ residents of the U.S. are protected against discrimination in the workplace. And Roberts agreed with Gorsuch in that case.

The Louisiana law that Roberts and four other justices struck down in June Medical Services v. Russo required doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. Pence, during his CBN interview, argued, “That’s a very modest restriction on abortion providers, but a narrow majority in the Supreme Court still said it was unacceptable. And I think it’s been, I think it’s been a wake-up call for pro-life voters around the country who understand, in a very real sense, (that) the destiny of the Supreme Court is on the ballot in 2020.”