From Judges to Justices: Keeping Executive Power in Check Is an Ancient Problem

How evangelicals are responding to the Supreme Court’s latest ruling on presidential immunity.

In the Bible, ancient Israel wrestled with how to restrain corrupt rulers. A modern-day version of that political question went before the US Supreme Court, which ruled Monday on when a president can be prosecuted for criminal behavior.

The case revolved around former president Donald Trump’s attempts to interfere with the 2020 election results. Ultimately, the Court decided that presidents have absolute immunity for official acts related to core constitutional duties while in office and presumptive immunity for official acts that don’t fall under core powers, but cannot be granted immunity for private acts.

Some evangelicals have expressed disappointment in Trump’s actions and support for the resulting criminal charges, saying they are eager to hold their executives to higher ethical standards, especially if they claim Christ. Trump supporters, though, have seen the efforts to prosecute him as unjust and politically motivated.

While Trump and his backers viewed the Court as siding with the former president, reactions were mixed among his opponents. Some were concerned about putting leaders “above the law,” while others saw the lack of immunity for unofficial acts as a significant check on executive power.

Daniel Darling, who is director of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Land Center for Cultural Engagement and has been critical of Trump, said reactions to the decision were perhaps overblown.

“Despite the screaming, the Court has strengthened democracy,” he wrote on X. “Trump has to prove his election-meddling was part of official acts. The government has to prove they weren’t. The court seems to lean in the direction that they weren’t.”

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