In her recent column on the impact of Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court (“VALERIE SCHULTZ: The Kavanaugh effect,” June 8), Valerie Schultz misses the mark, suggesting Kavanaugh’s ascension ushers in a totalitarian era of “forced procreation.”
To support her apocalyptic vision, Schultz references a frightening sexual assault against Christine Blasey Ford that took place 36 years ago, allegedly perpetrated by Kavanaugh. An utter lack of corroborating evidence, along with numerous inconsistencies and omissions in Ford’s testimony, made it impossible to prove even one of the terrible accusations. No matter. For Schultz and too many others, Kavanaugh accused was Kavanaugh guilty.
The true Kavanaugh effect is not a world in which women are treated as “subhuman vessels of male prerogative,” but one in which too many of us stand ready to abandon legal principles like the presumption of innocence. That Kavanaugh effect is not imagined but is disturbingly real.
Some years ago, a Fresno-area high-school teacher of my acquaintance was accused by a student of sexual assault. He was removed from the classroom and the school district abruptly distanced itself as he and his family waited out the investigation. The family endured the inevitable public judgment until the following year when his accuser made a nearly identical allegation against another male teacher. Both were subsequently exonerated, but it took the veteran teacher out of his classroom for two years.
We’ve seen the Kavanaugh effect here at home, too, in the wake of sexual assault allegations against Monsignor Craig Harrison, the gregarious priest of St. Francis of Assisi Church. When news of the allegations broke on April 24, social media mobs quickly came to their own uninformed conclusions, but those of us praying for a just outcome resolved to wait for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno to conclude its investigation.
A reasonable person might expect the diocese to do likewise, but reason is always the first casualty of the Kavanaugh effect. Less than a month after Harrison’s suspension, KQED News of northern California reported that Diocese Chancellor Teresa Dominguez had visited one of the alleged victims at his home to apologize.
“I personally expressed my concern for him; told him that I believe him, and apologized for the pain this matter has caused him,” Dominguez told KQED. “I told him that I will support him and be an advocate for him in any way that I can.”
Dominquez’s remarks weren’t some gaffe picked up on a hot mic. This was a thoughtfully written email demonstrating blatant bias by a high-ranking official of the Fresno Diocese. In light of such public pronouncements, it’s understandable how Harrison might feel abandoned by the diocese he’s served for more than three decades.
Schultz’s primary fear, and apparently all the evidence required to believe Kavanaugh guilty of attempted rape, is her belief that Kavanaugh will “be the vehicle the Court uses to drive over the Roe v. Wade precedent and kill it.” She and others lying awake at night over the thought of losing the right to kill our unborn children can stop hyperventilating. Kavanaugh is known to have high regard for judicial precedent, not just as “a goal or aspiration, but as a constitutional tenet that has to be followed expect in the most extraordinary circumstances,” said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, in her speech announcing her intent to confirm Kavanaugh.
What Kavanaugh will do remains to be seen. And, as Justice Clarence Thomas recently noted, the court may soon be “dutybound to address” the scope of the right it created, but that’s a far cry from overturning Roe.
In the meantime, some calm is in order. Sexual assault in all its manifestations is a real and terrible thing, its victims deserve support and justice. Every bit as frightening, though, is the abandonment of bedrock legal principles like the presumption of innocence. We are a sinful people in a fallen world. We relinquish those principles and protections at our peril.
Marylee Shrider is executive director of Right to Life of Kern County