An ecumenical council which counts several oldline Protestant, Eastern Orthodox and historically African-American denominations among its members has – again – weighed in against the nomination of United States Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) released a statement Wednesday afternoon calling for the withdrawal of Kavanaugh’s nomination to the high court. The NCC had already signed on to an August 27 letter addressed to U.S. Senators on behalf of “37 national faith-based, nontheist, and religious liberty organizations” which expressed skepdgticism about the nomination and Kavanaugh’s opinions and writings.
That letter raised concerns that Kavanaugh “would allow broad religious exemptions that could harm other people” citing his dissento in Priests for Life v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services which opposed a mandate requiring employer coverage for abortifacient drugs. The Supreme Court eventually ruled in the Hobby Lobby case that for-profit organizations are protected under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).
An Associated Press piece published late Wednesday night cites the NCC as “a massive coalition of U.S. Christian churches attended by 40 million people”. The 40 million number has not been updated for many years, and includes oldline denominations that have shrunk precipitously in recent decades.
The NCC does not count the two largest Christian bodies in the United States – the Roman Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention – among its affiliated member communions. The United Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church (USA) and Episcopal Church do affiliate with the NCC and are among the council’s largest financial contributors.
As this blog has previously reported, the NCC has published audited statements showing that grants and contributions from both member communions and individuals to the council have declined significantly in recent years. Total operating revenues also shrank.
In 2006 the NCC had an approximately $12 million budget and employed 40 staff, most of which were based in a now-shuttered New York headquarters. Today, the council has an annual budget one-quarter the size and lists seven staff and a single office at the United Methodist Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
Participation by member communions has decreased. Customarily, about one-third of the NCC’s 38 member communions contribute a significant amount to the council’s budget. Another third of NCC member communions give a token amount, while the remaining third make no financial contribution.
The NCC has not organized a governing General Assembly since 2010, when the council held annual gatherings jointly with the Church World Service. A more modestly-sized Christian Unity Gathering has convened outside of Washington, D.C. for the past few years. In 2017, the gathering was themed “Resilience, Resistance, and Persistence.”
Statements made by the NCC in the past year oppose the U.S. decision to declare Jerusalem as capital of Israel, oppose GOP tax reform plans as biblically indefensible, and call for gun control measures. At the same time, the council has remained silent on issues of marriage and sanctity of life.
The full NCC statement on Kavanaugh is listed below:
The National Council of Churches (NCC) calls for the withdrawal of the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court of the United States. We believe he has disqualified himself from this lifetime appointment and must step aside immediately.
We note several reasons for this. During his appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Judge Kavanaugh exhibited extreme partisan bias and disrespect towards certain members of the committee and thereby demonstrated that he possesses neither the temperament nor the character essential for a member of the highest court in our nation.
In addition, his testimony before the Judiciary Committee included several misstatements and some outright falsehoods, some in relation to accusations of sexual misconduct. All citizens must be expected to speak truthfully when under oath, however, this is especially true for anyone who seeks a seat on the Supreme Court.
Moreover, Judge Kavanaugh’s extensive judicial and political record is troubling with regard to issues of voting rights, racial and gender justice, health care, the rights of people with disabilities, and environmental protections. This leads us to believe that he cannot be an impartial justice in cases that are sure to come before him at the Court.
Therefore the National Council of Churches calls for the withdrawal of Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court immediately.
The council later amended the statement to include: “We are deeply disturbed by the multiple allegations of sexual assault and call for a full and unhindered investigation of these accusations.”