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Christian Minister Testifies He Was Involved in Effort to Sway Supreme Court

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  • An evangelical Christian minister testified that he was involved in an effort to influence the thinking of Supreme Court justices.
  • Robert Schenck told a congressional panel that he had advance notice of a 2014 Supreme Court ruling.
  • Democrats are pushing for a bill that would require judges to establish a code of conduct.

An evangelical Christian minister testified Thursday before a congressional panel that he had been involved in a nearly two-decade effort to sway some of the Supreme Court’s conservative justices.

Robert Schenck, a former anti-abortion activist, told the House Judiciary Committee he engaged in prayer sessions with some of the court’s conservative justices, recruited ‘stealth missionaries’ to build relationships with these judges and had learned the outcome of a closely watched investigation. 2014 Supreme Court case before publication.

“I believe we have pushed the boundaries of Christian ethics and understood the High Court’s promise to administer equal justice,” Schenck said. “In one instance, Judge Thomas complimented me saying something like, keep doing what you’re doing, it’s making a difference.”

Thursday’s hearing, titled “Undue Influence: High Court Operation and Politics at SCOTUS,” came after Schenck’s allegations were recently reported in Politico, Rolling Stone and the New York Times.

The New York Times report centered on Schenck’s claims that he had gained intimate knowledge of the outcome of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, a case concerning religious rights and reproductive health. In an opinion by conservative Judge Samuel Alito, the 5-4 majority ruled that paying for insurance covering contraception violated the religious freedoms of private, for-profit companies.

Schneck said he was told of the decision at least three weeks in advance by Gayle Wright, who, along with her husband Donald, was among the “stealth missionaries” Schneck helped recruit. The couple learned of the decision while having dinner with Alito, Schneck said. Alito and Gayle Wright have denied the allegations.

The allegations have prompted new calls from Democratic lawmakers for Supreme Court justices to uphold a code of ethics. Judges, unlike lower federal court judges, are not bound by a code of conduct and have not adopted their own.

“The court can’t or won’t do what’s in its own best interest,” said Representative Hank Johnson of Georgia, who is leading a bill that would establish an enforceable code of conduct for judges, during a House Judiciary Committee hearing. . “Therefore, Congress must intervene.”

The legislation, called the Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal and Transparency Act, aims to increase transparency and promote accountability for judges by requiring them to draft and enforce a code of conduct and adhere to financial disclosure. gifts and income they receive from third parties. .

Critics cast doubt on Schneck’s claims. During Thursday’s hearing, another witness, attorney Mark Paoletta, criticized Schneck and said his claims were baseless. Republicans on the committee, including high-ranking member Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, also reviewed Schneck’s comments.

“I don’t believe anything Mr. Schneck says,” Paoletta, a former clerk for Judge Thomas, told the committee.

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