Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, in a speech last year, gave a strong hint at his views on taxpayer support for religious schools when he praised his “first judicial hero,” Justice William Rehnquist, for determining that the strict wall between church and state “was wrong as a matter of law and history.”
Mr. Rehnquist’s legacy on religious issues was most profound in “ensuring that religious schools and religious institutions could participate as equals in society and in state benefits programs,” Judge Kavanaugh, President Trump’s nominee to succeed Justice Anthony M. Kennedy on the Supreme Court, declared at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative research organization.
.. Can a church-school playground pave the way for taxpayer funding to flow to private and parochial schools for almost any purpose?
Over his decades-long legal career, Judge Kavanaugh has argued in favor of breaking down barriers between church and state. He has filed friend-of-the-court briefs in support of school prayer and the right of religious groups to gain access to public school facilities. He was part of the legal team that represented former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida in 2000 when he defended a school voucher program that was later ruled unconstitutional. The program had used public funds to help pay the tuition of students leaving some of the state’s lowest-performing schools for private or religious schools.
With a lineup of prayer meetings, humanitarian forums and religious panels, the National Prayer Breakfast has long brought together people from all over the world for an agenda built around the teachings of Jesus.
But there on the guest list in recent years was Maria Butina, looking to meet high-level American officials and advance the interests of the Russian state, and Yulia Tymoshenko, a Ukranian opposition leader, seeking a few minutes with President Trump to burnish her credentials as a presidential prospect back home.
Their presence at the breakfast illuminates the way the annual event has become an international influence-peddling bazaar, where foreign dignitaries, religious leaders, diplomats and lobbyists jockey for access to the highest reaches of American power.
The subculture around the breakfast was thrust into the spotlight last week with the indictment of Ms. Butina, who was charged with conspiring to act as a Russian agent. Her goals, prosecutors said, included gaining access to the breakfast “to establish a back channel of communication” between influential Russians and Americans “to promote the political interests of the Russian Federation.”
.. Ms. Butina’s spy-thriller-like tactics hint at the more widespread, if less sensational, international maneuvering that pervades the prayer breakfast, and the lucrative opportunities it creates for Washington’s corps of lobbyists and fixers, according to more than half a dozen people who have been involved in peddling access around the event.
.. Ahead of Mr. Trump’s first appearance at the breakfast last year, some of the people said, foreign politicians clamored for tickets, with some offering to pay steep fees to get into the event and the myriad gatherings on its sidelines.
One lobbyist, Herman J. Cohen, offered what he billed as an exclusive invitation to last year’s breakfast, and three days of meetings around it, to an African leader for $220,000.
.. “It’s an opportunity,” Mr. Cohen said of the event. “If I go to the prayer breakfast, I have a good chance of maybe shaking the president’s hand or talking to him for two minutes.”
“In a way, it bypasses protocols,” he added, “but in a way, it is taking advantage of people being present in the same venue.” Such invitations to foreign leaders, he said, are “very useful to them back home.”
.. Some describe the gathering as similar to the World Economic Forum, except that Jesus is the organizing principle. The eclectic guest list has included the Dalai Lama, the Rev. Billy Graham, Mother Teresa, the singer Bono and the former Redskins coach Joe Gibbs, as well as the Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat and President Paul Kagame of Rwanda.
.. With its relative lack of diplomatic protocols and press coverage, the prayer breakfast setting is ideal for foreign figures who might not otherwise be able to easily get face time with top American officials, because of unsavory reputations or a lack of an official government perch, according to lobbyists who help arrange such trips. They also contend that it is easier to secure visas when the breakfast is listed as a destination.
.. “You can’t just invite wonderful, exciting, great people,” said Mr. Hall. “Jesus, when he went to dinner, he went to dinner with everybody.”
And it will do so in unexpected ways
.. People who cherish America’s church-state separation like to cite the Tripoli treaty of 1797 between America and the Muslim overlords of North Africa, which assured them that “the government of the USA is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion” and pledged respect for Islam.
Conservative American Christians retort that despite that pact, their country went on to fight two tough wars against those Muslim rulers, who were a threat to American merchant ships—though of course religion may not have been a factor.
.. it was a Democratic and not-very-religious secretary of state, John Kerry, who acknowledged the spiritual by creating an Office of Religion and Global Affairs to help American diplomats engage with faith leaders.
.. For all his reputed hostility to Islam, even President Donald Trump last year praised the rulers of Saudi Arabia for hosting “the holiest places of one of the world’s great faiths”. He must have been hoping his evangelical supporters were not listening.
.. Mr Pompeo comes across as an educated person whose negative ideas about Islam are more thought-through, and hence perhaps more worrisome, than the “visceral, almost incoherent” suspicion of that faith which Mr Trump exuded as a candidate.
.. Watched closely, the video does not show him to believe that all Muslims think that way. What is more striking is the remedy of Christian solidarity he proposes: Islam-inspired terrorists “will continue to press against us until we make sure…we know that Jesus Christ is the only solution for our world.”
.. As a Congressman, he said Muslim leaders who failed to condemn the outrage, and to call it incompatible with Muhammad’s teaching, were “potentially complicit”
.. Mr Pompeo’s record in Congress is the campaign he waged to have the global Islamist movement known as the Muslim Brotherhood formally designated as a terrorist organisation.
.. there is a widespread fear among Muslim-Americans that such a designation would lead to the banning of civil-society groups in America which lobby peacefully against discrimination, on the grounds that they are tainted by alleged links with the Brotherhood.
.. It has been reported that CIA professionals are among those who oppose the move
.. During the Middle Eastern travels of Vice-President Mike Pence, a passionate evangelical, some of the greatest hostility he encountered was from fellow Christians in the region, who felt America’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was unhelpful to peace.
.. He received a rave reception from Jewish members of the Knesset for a speech that was laced with scriptural references; but leaders of traditional Christian churches in the region were unwilling to meet him. Mr Pompeo should anticipate similar shocks.
The “tradition” of liberalism, really an anti-tradition, is founded on that substantive creed and cannot coherently even be identified, let alone followed, without entering into those anti-traditionalist ideas and sympathetically interpreting and applying them.
.. the main “tradition” of liberalism is in fact a liturgy, centred on a sacramental celebration of the progressive overcoming of the darkness of bigotry and unreason.
.. The forces of secular progressive liberalism – which span both major political parties – make no secret of what they would like to do to believing Catholics. One Harvard law professor urged his fellow-liberals to reject wide-ranging “religious liberty” protections over LGBT issues because “taking a hard line (‘You lost, live with it’) is better than trying to accommodate the losers
.. taking a hard line seemed to work reasonably well in Germany and Japan after 1945.”
.. During the Obama presidency, the then Solicitor General of the US acknowledged that Christian institutions could lose their tax exemptions over their doctrinal stances.
.. He’s always been like this. He’s like this in his forthcoming book on Pope Francis: looking for signs of hope, even if he believes the hopes are slim.
.. That doesn’t mean we can’t afford to fight. It means that we can’t expect to win.