'Stealth missionaries': Former anti-abortion lobbyist gives bombshell testimony on Supreme Court campaign
Samuel Alito (Photo by Nicholkas Kamm for AFP)

The Rev. Rob Schenck was once deeply involved in the Christian right movement and white evangelical efforts to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. But the evangelical Protestant minister has grown increasingly critical of the Christian right and the anti-abortion movement that he was once a part of.

Moreover, he is speaking out against the Christian right’s campaign to lobby Supreme Court justices in the 2014 case Burwell v. Hobby Lobby.

Schenck alleges that evangelical Christian fundamentalists knew what the High Court’s decision in Hobby Lobby would be before that decision was publicly announced, and that the leak came from either Justice Samuel Alito or his wife — an allegation that Justice Alito has vehemently denied. And Schenck discussed that allegation when he testified before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, December 8.

The Independent’s Alex Woodward, reporting on Schenck’s testimony, explains, “An evangelical minister and former longtime anti-abortion activist told members of Congress that he helped recruit wealthy conservative donors to serve as ‘stealth missionaries’ at the U.S. Supreme Court, where they developed friendships with conservative justices that aligned with the group’s ‘social and religious’ views. The ‘overarching’ goal of Robert Schenck’s ‘Operation Higher Court’ sought to ‘gain insight into the conservative justices’ thinking and to shore up their resolve to render solid, unapologetic opinions,’ he told the House Judiciary Committee in sworn testimony on 8 December.”

Operation Higher Court was the lobbying campaign of Faith and Action, the Christian right group that Schenck was a part of for many years.

Woodward notes that Schenck “testified to the Committee that his group suggested tactics like meeting with justices for meals at their homes and at private clubs to build relationships and advance their perceived common objectives.”

Schenck told House Judiciary Committee members, “I believe we pushed the boundaries of Christian ethics and compromised the High Court’s promise to administer equal justice. I humbly apologize to all I failed in this regard. Most of all, I beg the pardon of the folks I enlisted to do work that was not always transparently honest.… I’m here today in the interest of truth telling.”

The December 8 hearing wasn’t strictly about Burwell v. Hobby Lobby or Operation Higher Court’s campaign to influence Supreme Court justices. It was about Supreme Court ethics in general, and Schenck now believes that it was unethical for Supreme Court justices to be interacting with Christian right lobbyists.