Religious Right Leader Thinks Defending A Rogue Sheriff Is The Christian Thing To Do (TWEETS)

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Matt Barber speaking at USA Survival in 2015 (screenshot courtesy YouTube)
Matt Barber speaking at USA Survival in 2015 (screenshot courtesy YouTube)


When Donald Trump announced he was pardoning former Maricopa County, Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, we knew that Trump’s most diehard defenders would twist themselves into pretzels defending him. After all, when all the hyperbole is exhausted, you still have a president who saw fit to issue a pardon before a sentence was even handed down and before any appeals had been made.


In a sane world, there would be no question that this would be the definition of a high crime. But apparently such little details don’t matter to a prominent religious right leader and legal scholar. He actually thinks that cops around the country should look to Arpaio as a role model.

If you follow the religious right for any period of time, you’ve probably heard about Matt Barber, a longtime field general in the empire built by the late Jerry Falwell. He was the longtime associate dean of the law school at Falwell’s Liberty University, and now serves as vice president of Liberty Counsel Action, one of the linear descendants of Moral Majority. He is also one of the top lawyers at the Falwell empire’s law firm, Liberty Counsel. In other words–when he talks, social conservatives listen.

Within hours of the pardon’s announcement, Barber essentially jumped for joy on Twitter.

Okay, Matt. Let’s review the “example” Arpaio set, shall we?

For those who missed it, Arpaio openly flouted federal judge G. Murray Snow’s order to stop profiling Latinos and detain them if they were in the country illegally. He didn’t try to appeal it. He just carried on as Snow were speaking in “Peanuts” adult language. For that, he was held in civil contempt by Snow, and then convicted of criminal contempt by another federal judge, Susan Bolton.

Unless I’m reading you wrong, Matt, you just told every police officer in this country that they should “follow Arpaio’s example” and simply thumb their nose at judges who try to hold them to account. Harvard Law professor Noah Feldman rightly notes that when a police officer takes that line, “he becomes a law unto himself.” After all, he has effectively disregarded his oath requiring him to uphold both the federal Constitution and the constitution of his state. That’s not “awesome,” Matt. That’s outrageous. That’s un-American. That’s un-democratic.

Let’s delve a little deeper into Arpaio’s “example.” We’re talking about a sheriff who ran a jail in which prisoners died at rates out of all proportion to jails serving major cities. We’re talking about a sheriff who was so fixated on locking up undocumented immigrants that he turned a blind eye to sexual assault. We’re talking about a sheriff who, at the very least, fostered an environment in which his underlings entrapped an innocent man.

Anyone who thinks Arpaio’s behavior is even remotely laudable should check their moral compass, because it’s severely warped. If there was any question about just how warped Barber’s moral compass was, he answered it by comparing it to pardons issued by Obama.

No, Matt. While we may differ about whether those pardons are just, no one can credibly dispute that Obama let the process play out before issuing them. Trump issued his pardon before any sentence was handed down, and before any appeals were even lodged. And he made up his mind to do so before the trial even started.

But then again, looking more into Barber’s history, his defense of this outrageous pardon of Arpaio comes as no surprise. Barber and his colleagues at Liberty Counsel helped defend Kim Davis, even though her zeal to keep same-sex couples from being married led her to refuse to issue marriage licenses to anyone.

Additionally, Liberty Law and Liberty Counsel are defendants in a lawsuit filed by Janet Jenkins contending that they helped her former partner, Lisa Miller, flee to Nicaragua in 2009 with their daughter rather than comply with a visitation order. Barber, like all of his colleagues at Liberty Law and Liberty Counsel, contended that Miller had the right to engage in civil disobedience. However, Jenkins contends that Miller left the country on specific advice from Liberty Counsel.


And now Barber suggests that a sheriff with a history of blatant disregard for the law, the Constitution, and basic decency should be a role model. It takes a lot of effort to be anywhere near as morally bankrupt as Trump. But when you add it up, Barber just proved he comes awfully close. And in so doing, he actually proved why this pardon was manifestly illegal.

(featured image: screenshot via YouTube)