How Court Evangelicals Respond to Allegations of Sexual Abuse

It wasn’t that long ago that court evangelicals were telling us that if we let transgender people use the bathroom of their choice, we’d be subjecting our children to sexual predators. Now that they’re facing an actual allegation of sexual abuse, they’re singing a very different tune. Let’s take a look at how some of them have responded to Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh tried to rape her when they were in high school.

Dr. Robert Jeffress:

Tony Perkins:

Why would someone sit on an allegation for nearly six weeks, if it were about a subject that everyone is supposed to be concerned about? Perhaps it’s because they are more concerned about how to use the allegation than whether or not the allegation is true.

Welcome to Washington, DC where such political theater is regularly on display, the latest episode being Senate Democrats’ efforts to derail Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh with an eleventh-hour allegation of inappropriate behavior from more than thirty years ago. Whether or not the allegation is true is one thing. We should always be concerned about the truth. But how it is being used is another — and methods have the right to be questioned.

Ralph Reed:

6 FBI background checks over 25 years: nothing. 1325 written questions from U.S. Senators: not a word. 65 meetings with U.S. Senators: it never came up. 32 hours of public hearings: nothing. Executive session of U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee: never raised. Spartacus: did not mention it. Washington Post publishes a hit piece mentioning a one uncorroborated 36-year-old high school allegation, and we must delay or defeat the confirmation of Judge Bret Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. This is a disgraceful, partisan debasement of the U.S. Senate and the confirmation process, and the fact that it was held until the eleventh-hour is suspicious at best and nefarious at worst.

The focus for these three is all on the process of how and when the allegations became public. Not one of them has the decency to even express concern for what Dr. Ford experienced if what she reported is true. The possibility is never even contemplated, with Jeffress going so far as to directly challenge her credibility and suggest that she “colluded” with the Democrats to take down Kavanaugh.

But perhaps the most disgusting response came from Franklin Graham.

Graham declares that what Kavanaugh did in high school is irrelevant. When the interviewer followed up by asking what kind of message that sends to sexual abuse victims, Graham responded by saying that no crime was committed because they were teenagers and when she said no, he respected it and they walked away. Graham ends by saying, “And they call it a sexual assault? No…I don’t believe it.”

Regardless of whether or not Graham believes Dr. Ford, I’d like to ask him if Kavanaugh pinning her to the bed and putting his hand over her mouth when she tried to scream constitutes “respect.” The two of them didn’t simply walk away. Ford escaped when Kavanaugh’s friend Judge jumped on top of them and sent them tumbling. She ran and locked herself in the bathroom until the coast was clear. If that doesn’t qualify as sexual assault to Graham, then I don’t know what would. Perhaps he thinks that men can treat women that way and if there is no penetration of a vagina by a penis, it’s not sexual assault.

It sounds like Graham would benefit greatly from a consultation with his nephew, Boz Tchividjian, a former prosecutor who now devotes himself to dealing with the epidemic of sexual assault in the evangelical church.

Without a centralized theological body, evangelical policies and cultures vary radically, and while some church leaders have worked to prevent abuse and harassment, many have not. The causes are manifold: authoritarian leadership, twisted theology, institutional protection, obliviousness about the problem and, perhaps most shocking, a diminishment of the trauma sexual abuse creates — especially surprising in a church culture that believes strongly in the sanctity of sex. “Sexual abuse is the most underreported thing — both in and outside the church — that exists,” says Boz Tchividjian, a grandson of Billy Graham and a former Florida assistant state attorney.

It is the attitudes of people like Graham, Jeffress, Perkins and Reed that contribute to this epidemic by demonstrating the kind of response victims will get from these leaders if they come forward with allegations against men in positions of power. It is both disgusting and disgraceful.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.