In new hot mic audio obtained by Rolling Stone, Peggy Nienaber, executive director of Liberty Counsel’s D.C. ministry, bragged about praying with Supreme Court Justices at the court. Liberty Counsel authored an amicus brief in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health case, in which the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and ended the federal right to abortion last month.
Per the Rolling Stone’s Wednesday report, during a celebration marking the fall of Roe, someone on a livestream asked Nienabar, “You actually pray with the Supreme Court justices?” Nienaber responded: “I do. They will pray with us, those that like us to pray with them.” As for where these prayers are happening, Nienaber indicated they’re taking place inside the Supreme Court: “We actually go in there.”
Several experts on judicial conflicts of interest and Supreme Court recusals who spoke to Rolling Stone are in agreement that what Nienabar described presents “a problem” and possible conflict of interest, given Liberty Counsel’s role in the Dobbs case. (And while Christian leaders have apparently been praying for and discussing the end of abortion rights inside the court, outside, highly militarized police officers have been enforcing a buffer zone to shut out abortion rights protesters.)
Liberty Counsel’s founder, Mat Staver, has since denied Nienaber’s claims to the magazine, stating outright, “There is just no way that has happened,” and tried to distinguish that Nienaber “has prayer meetings for [the justices], not with them.” Staver acknowledged to Rolling Stone that if such prayers are taking place, it would be “inappropriate,” given Liberty Counsel’s extensive litigation efforts to end abortion and advance other far-right causes. But Nienaber’s DC Ministry—which operated as a separate entity from Liberty Counsel called Faith and Action in the Nation’s Capital prior to 2018—has a long history of praying with justices and building relationships with powerful, right-wing political leaders to influence policymaking.
Oh well, “inappropriate.” I can think of a lot that is inappropriate right now, such as being ruled by a cabal of six far-right Opus Dei Catholics determined to take the nation back to a pre-Vatican II world and unconcerned with the consequences of that.