Conservative evangelical leaders have been vocal in their support of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, but has the recent allegation that the 53-year-old sexually assaulted a woman over three decades when he was in high school changed their minds?
At least one notable evangelical leader is now more cautious in how he sees the Kavanaugh nomination while several others remain steadfast in their support of the nominee despite The Washington Post's report about California Professor Christine Blasey Ford's claims that Kavanaugh tried to rape her at a party when they were teens growing up in Maryland.
The accusations have been denied by Kavanaugh, who released a statement Monday saying that "this never happened" and asserted that he is willing to talk to the Senate Judiciary Committee about the allegations.
Ford and others are calling for an FBI investigation into the allegations before the Senate holds hearings. The Department of Justice said the FBI will not investigate the matter because it does not involve a potential federal crime. Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, offered Wednesday to send aides to interview Ford at her home, if that would make her more comfortable.
In the following pages are five evangelical leaders' reactions to the Kavanaugh sexual assault allegations.
Leading evangelist Franklin Graham, president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and son of Billy Graham, has been avid in his support for Kavanaugh. He took to Facebook to argue that Ford's sexual assault allegation is just another attempt by liberal progressives to halt the nomination process.
"Conservative Judge Brett Kavanaugh has a stellar reputation of judicial excellence, integrity, and character that is decades long. Now, at the 11th hour of his confirmation, a singular voice has arisen accusing him of an incident when he was a teenager in high school," Graham wrote. "Judge Kavanaugh has made it clear: 'I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time.' And so does a person who was also there at the time. But the accusation has shaken up the proceedings and gotten lots of media attention — which is just what Judge Kavanaugh's enemies on the liberal left had hoped for."
Graham pointed out that Kavanaugh has been through six FBI vettings and other inquiries and stated that "nothing even related to these 36-year-old allegations has ever come up."
"Progressive socialist-leaning Democrats would like to see the confirmation process derailed, but the confirmation of this conservative judge needs to move forward," Graham asserted.
Graham was also interviewed by the Christian Broadcasting Network on the accusation. Graham stated that he didn't think that the Senate should disregard the accusation but added that the accusation was made known to Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, weeks ago.
Graham argued that the Democrats are now relying on this accusation late into the process for "political purposes."
"It is just a shame that a person like Judge Kavanaugh who has a stellar record that somebody can bring something up that he did when he was a teenager, close to 40 years ago. That is not relevant," Graham contended. "We have got to look at a person's life and what they have done as an adult and if they are qualified for this position. This is just an attempt to smear him. They couldn't find anything else in his record. This is an attempt to smear him and smear his name and put a black dot on it."
"How far back do we go in a person's life?" Graham asked. "There are a lot of things that I have done when I was a teenager that I certainly am ashamed of and not proud of."
Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, is one of nearly 40 evangelical leaders who signed onto a statement supporting Kavanaugh after his nomination in July.
On Tuesday, Moore told CNN that if the accusation is true, it should essentially disqualify Kavanaugh from Supreme Court consideration.
"It is a confusing time and a very serious time," Moore said. "I think we need to look for a hearing and we need to attempt to find out the truth in this matter."
When asked if he believes the allegations, Moore stated that "we need to hear from both parties involved."
"I am looking forward to an open hearing. Obviously, if it did happen, that would be disqualifying. Obviously, if this did not happen, it would be a horrible thing to wrongfully accuse someone of doing," Moore explained. "So, that is what I am hearing mostly from evangelicals — 'What's going on? We need to hear from both of the parties involved.'"
Moore stressed that he hopes that people wouldn't "rush to judgement immediately simply on the basis of where our political convictions lie."
"I am dealing almost everyday with young women who have been assaulted or abused. I don't want them to hear from whatever political debate is going not to come forward or tell their story," he said. "And I am often dealing with people in the criminal justice system who have been wrongfully accused of doing things they haven't done."
Moore was asked what would happen if Kavanaugh and Ford testify and there are "two credible stories" from "two credible people" that contradict each other.
"I don't know. I am going to wait and listen to both of them and hear what both of them have to say. Right now, you are starting to hear from people who know both of them," he said. "The danger here is to immediately go into either people eviscerating Professor Ford or people immediately eviscerating Judge Kavanaugh. We need to listen here and find out what the truth is and the problem is we are living in a time that everyone wants to have every situation immediately adjudicated in time to put a post on Facebook."
Reed, chairman of the national evangelical grassroots group Faith & Freedom Coalition who has also been involved in informally advising the Trump administration, issued similar thoughts to that of Graham.
In a Facebook post, Reed pointed out that there have been 1,325 written questions from U.S. Senators and "not one word" of them have been about the rape allegation. Likewise, there have been 65 meetings with U.S. Senators and the allegation "never came up." Even through 32 hours of public hearings, Reed stated there was "nothing" on the sexual assault allegations.
"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 [Brett] Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court," Reed wrote. "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."
Perkins, president of the Washington-based social conservative advocacy group Family Research Council who has also informally engaged with the Trump administration, issued a post on his Washington Update blog on Tuesday. He questioned why Feinstein sat on Ford's uncorroborated allegation for six weeks if people are "supposed to be concerned" about it.
"Perhaps it's because [Democrats] are more concerned about how to use the allegation than whether or not the allegation is true," Perkins wrote. "Welcome to Washington, D.C. where such political theater is regularly on display."
Perkins stressed that the truth of the allegation is one thing but "how it is being used is another." He stressed that "methods have the right to be questioned."
Jeffress, the pastor of First Baptist Dallas and a regular Fox News contributor, has not been shy in his support and defense of Trump and his administration. He has also been one of Trump's most loyal evangelical advisors.
In an interview with Fox News, Jeffress assured that support from the White House for Kavanaugh is "as strong as ever."
Jeffress asked if Democrats are "guilty of collusion in anyway with Dr. Ford to derail a Supreme Court nomination."
"If the FBI is going to investigate something, that is what they should investigate," Jeffress said.
Jeffress was asked how the White House and Senate Judiciary Committee should handle the claims of a woman who says that she was traumatized.
"I think the president and his team have done a masterful job of navigating this challenging and changing situation," Jeffress said. "I think first of all, we have got to look at the credibility of both parties. What I do know is that Kavanaugh is agreed to questioning by Dr. Ford's attorney in this hearing on Monday and it was [Sen.] Susan Collins' call for cross examination that apparently caused Dr. Ford to pull out and say, 'No, no, no. We want an investigation.' I think that raises questions."
Jeffress was also asked to respond to a claim from AlterNet.org.
The claim reads: "Had a Democratic nominee for the Supreme Court been accused of attempted rape, the Christian Right would be demanding the nominee's immediate withdrawal. But Kavanaugh, regardless of Ford's accusation, will get a pass from the Christian Right because they see him as part of their tribe — just as [Justice Clarence] Thomas got a pass in 1991, and just as President Donald Trump has been getting a pass."
"That is not fair and that wouldn't happen," Jeffress responded. "The Democrats feign this concern of abuse of women. They say they are so concerned about that when their real objection to Brett Kavanaugh is that he would restrict in any way the murder 700,000 females in the womb to abortion every year. That is rank, gross hypocrisy and it is on display for America to see right now."