WASHINGTON, D.C., June 17, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – Senator Josh Hawley, R-MO, decried “the end of the conservative legal movement” in a fiery speech before the U.S. Senate yesterday. He also called out the Republican Party for its treatment of religious conservatives.
Hawley made his remarks following Monday’s Supreme Court ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia. The ruling concluded that “sex discrimination” in Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act should be interpreted to mean “sexual orientation” and “gender identity,” in addition to its original biological meaning.
“After Bostock,” the 40-year-old senator said, the effort of the conservative legal movement, “as it has existed up to now, is over.”
Hawley referred to the legal philosophies of textualism and originalism, which were supposed to essentially interpret legal texts based on their ordinary meaning, as understood by regular citizens at the time the law was made.
He said that “if you can invoke textualism and originalism in order to reach such a decision—an outcome that fundamentally changes the scope and meaning and application of statutory law—then textualism and originalism and all of those phrases don’t mean much at all.”
“And if those are the things that we’ve been fighting for—it’s what I thought we had been fighting for, those of us who call ourselves legal conservatives—if we’ve been fighting for originalism and textualism, and this is the result of that, then I have to say it turns out we haven’t been fighting for very much,” Hawley pointed out.
“Or maybe we’ve been fighting for quite a lot, but it’s been exactly the opposite of what we thought we were fighting for,” he speculated.
According to the young senator, who had previously already served as the Missouri Attorney General, the conservative legal movement always depended on religious conservatives “in order to carry the weight of the votes to actually support this out in public, to get out there and make it possible electorally.”
“Evangelicals, conservative Catholics, conservative Jews: let’s be honest, they’re the ones who have been the core of the legal conservative effort,” he said.
Now, however, it has become evident that “the bargain that has been offered to religious conservatives for years now is a bad one. It’s time to reject it.”
“The bargain has never been explicitly articulated,” Hawley admitted, “but religious conservatives know what it is. The bargain is that you go along with the party establishment, you support their policies and priorities—or at least keep your mouth shut about it—and, in return, the establishment will put some judges on the bench who supposedly will protect your constitutional rights to freedom of worship, to freedom of exercise.”
Hawley went on to recount some of the policies pushed by the Republican Party that religious conservatives accepted, hoping for a strong defense of the First Amendment in return:
We were told that we’re supposed to shut up while the party establishment focuses more on cutting taxes and handing out favors for corporations, multinational corporations who don’t share our values, who will not stand up for American principles, who were only too happy to ship American jobs overseas. But we’re supposed to say nothing about that. We’re supposed to keep our mouths shut because maybe we’ll get a judge out of the deal. That was the implicit bargain.
We’re supposed to keep our mouths shut while the party establishment opens borders, while the party establishment pursues ruinous trade policies.
We’re supposed to keep our mouths shut while those at the upper end of the income bracket get all of the attention. While working families and college students and those who don’t want to go to college but can’t get a good job, while they get what? What attention?
Workers? Children? What about parents looking for help with the cost of raising children? Looking for help with the culture in which they have to raise children? Looking for help with the communities, rebuilding the communities in which they must carry out their family life?
What about college students trying to find an education that isn’t ruinously expensive and then figure out some way to pay back that enormous debt? What about those who don’t have a college degree and don’t want one, but would like to get a good job? What about them?
Hawley also seemed to reference his public disputes with the Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative legal group that backed President Trump’s nominees to the Supreme Court and lower courts:
…the truth is, to those who have objected to my own questioning of judicial nominees in this body, to those who said I was wrong to question judges who came for the Judiciary Committee, to those who chided me for asking tough questions even of nominees by a Republican president, for those who said that I was slowing the process down, that I was out of line, for the supposedly conservative groups who threatened to buy television time in my own state to punish me for asking questions about conservative judges, I just have this to say: this is why I asked questions. This is why I won’t stop. And I wish some more people would ask some harder questions. Because this outcome is not acceptable. And the bargain which religious conservatives have been offered is not tenable.
Hawley ended on a somewhat hopeful note.
He encouraged religious conservatives “to bring forward the best of our ideas on every policy affecting this nation. We should be out in the forefront leading on economics, on trade, on race, on class, on every subject that matters for what our founders called the ‘general welfare’ because we have a lot to offer.”
“It’s time for religious conservatives to stand up and speak out rather than being told to sit down and shut up,” he added. “So, let this be a departure. Let this be a new beginning, let this be the start of something better.”
Rod Dreher, author of The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation, praised Hawley for what he called “a game-changing speech.”
“This speech is a call for religious conservatives to break away from the old way of doing political business — and, I hope, from the old leadership that has gotten very fat and happy networking with the GOP establishment over the years,” Dreher wrote.
“In this speech, Josh Hawley has made explicit the connections between class, culture, economics, and law in the Republican Party,” he explained. “This is heresy to the old guard. Good! Nail this speech to the doors of every Republican senator and political consultant, and every Christian Right lobbyist in Washington.”
Even though Hawley criticized the Supreme Court, this time led by Trump-appointee Justice Neil Gorsuch, for legislating from the bench instead of judging in a case, he did not criticize the content of the ruling as a deviation from natural law and traditional biblical morality.
Hawley said the ruling would be applied to cases involving questions of religious liberty in future cases. While explicitly mentioning churches, religious schools, and religious charities, he did not address, for instance, the case of a simple business owner who does not want his male employee to dress like a woman at work, even if the business owner is not religious. Cases like these, it appears, were already decided by Monday’s ruling.