Cultural conservatives are breathing a thankful sigh of relief over the defeat of Hillary Clinton in 2016 and their expectations are sky high for Donald Trump on issues ranging from abortion to religious freedom.
“I think that God gave us a second chance, gave us a reprieve and I think there’s a lot of people who believe we have got to take advantage of the first 100 days, the first year, the first two years of this new administration,” said Liberty Counsel Chairman Mathew Staver.
But he says conservative activists are taking nothing for granted.
“There is going to be high expectation. I don’t think there is going to be anybody sitting back and just assuming that everything will take place on its own. On the other hand, I don’t believe that Christian conservatives are going to be silent if there’s not action. In fact, the future of [Trump’s] presidency and many people in the conservative movement is hanging in the balance,” said Staver.
On Election Day, 81 percent of evangelicals voted for Trump. Staver says there are multiple reasons for that but he believes the future of the Supreme Court is at the top of the list.
“You had diametrically different positions. You had Hillary Clinton who was going to be an extenuation of Barack Obama and radicalize the Supreme Court. We would never have the same country, frankly, if we had a Hillary Clinton because we would lose the Supreme Court for a couple of decades,” said Staver.
Despite Trump’s lack of a socially conservative track record, Staver says the GOP candidate went above and beyond to show those voters he shared their interests.
Hear the interview:
“Never before has a Republican candidate given a list (of prospective justices) or said specifically and emphatically that they have to be pro-life. So there was a very distinct choice between these two,” said Staver.
He says the makeup of the Supreme Court will be impacted significantly by Trump’s win since he will get to nominate a successor for the late Justice Antonin Scalia. But Staver says future vacancies will also be critical.
“(Filling) a vacancy with Scalia just gives you the status quo of what we had before Scalia died, assuming you have the same kind of justice who respects the Constitution. But after Scalia, any justices that resign or for whatever reason are no longer on the bench, there you have the future of the Supreme Court hanging in the balance,” said Staver.
Staver says the composition of the Supreme Court will be critical as many hot-button cases make their way through the lower courts.
“In the courtroom, you’re going to have a lot more battles coming down the pike on this clash between homosexuality and religious freedom. You’re going to see more battles on the pro-life issue because what we’re seeing in the last five years is an explosion of pro-life legislation that ends up in the courtrooms,” said Staver.
But while the courts remain a fierce battleground, Staver is very optimistic about what a change in the White House will mean.
“In the political realm, the sky’s the limit at this point, both politically and in the administrative state. We now have opportunities we never even hardly dreamed about before – to literally reverse so much of what Obama did not only by executive order but Obamacare and many other regulations that promoted an amoral, immoral agenda,” said Staver.
“I’m sure you’ll have him dropping some of these lawsuits that Obama has pushed, like the Obamacare lawsuit that goes against the religious freedom of the Little Sisters of the Poor and other religious ministries. I think you’ll also see a dropping of some of these other radical LGBT, sexual orientation, gender identity lawsuits that the Obama administration pushed forward,” said Staver.
Of all the opportunities for cultural conservatives, defunding and prosecuting Planned Parenthood are very high on the list. Staver says Republicans had the chance to defund the nation’s largest abortion provider from 2005-2007 but ended up “playing politics.” He expects it happen in 2017.
“They’ve already moved forward in the past to defund Planned Parenthood. They’ve made efforts in that direction to overturn Obamacare. The problem is they had a president that stopped that. Now we’ll have a president who will push that and sign those laws into effect,” said Staver.
Earlier in December, the House Select Investigative Panel for Infant Lives recommended some Planned Parenthood officials for prosecution in the wake of undercover videos depicting the dissecting of aborted babies and negotiations with researchers on a price for baby body parts.
Staver believes that will likely gather steam, too.
“I think you could likely see some prosecution and more litigation against Planned Parenthood in 2017. I think their days of federal funding are going to come to an end and I think they are going to be on the receiving end of prosecutorial aggression by a number of entities, both state and federal as well. They deserve it,” said Staver.