“Let’s tear this world apart and build a better one,” actress Anne Hathaway said on Sept. 15 while accepting an award from the Human Rights Campaign for her support of LGBTQ efforts. As Hathaway spoke, Hurricane Florence was tearing apart the Carolina coast. At least 43 humans, 5,500 hogs, and 3.4 million chickens died, mostly because of widespread flooding.
Meanwhile, Washington hands were tearing apart Donald Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court—and further destroying already-declining confidence in the Court and its fairness. In July psychologist Christine Blasey Ford privately alleged that Kavanaugh assaulted her in 1982, when she was 15 and Kavanaugh was 17. Her public accusation on Sept. 16, and Kavanaugh’s prompt denial, launched a thousand “Who do you believe?” columns.
As of Monday, Sept. 24, Ford and Kavanaugh were scheduled to testify on Thursday, Sept. 27. If their testimonies are diametrically opposed, as they appear to be, and there are no corroborating witnesses, I won’t be speechifying about guilt or innocence. But I can read what the Bible at least six times says about the evidence needed to declare a person guilty.
Deuteronomy 19:15 states, “A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established.” Paul in 2 Corinthians 13:1 declares, “Every charge must be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.” First Timothy 5:19, recognizing our tendency to tear down leaders and aspirants to leadership, adds, “Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses.”
A witness in our modern age can be DNA evidence, such as that which made Bill Clinton admit to sex with intern Monica Lewinsky. It can be photographic evidence (now-retired Sen. Al Franken’s hands on a sleeping woman) or taped boasts (like those that almost sunk Donald Trump in 2016). Sometimes, tough judgment calls are necessary: What about stretching the Biblical definition of witness to include someone told right after sexual assault? What if a particular incident has only one witness, but there are many incidents?
We can assess nuances, but the principles are clear, and as of Sept. 24 it was clear that the last-minute barrage against Kavanaugh from Ford and another just-surfaced accuser, Deborah Ramirez, was falling far short of the Biblical standard. The two accusers say offenses took place in rooms at parties where others were present, but none of those others were backing up the accusations. Should Supreme Court justices be exceptions to evidentiary requirements because they serve for life? Remember that they don’t: If Kavanaugh gains a seat and proof that he lied comes out later, Congress could and should impeach him.
Why not delay now? Please forgive me for being a bit cynical about the timing of these new revelations. “Democrats Are Coming After Kavanaugh on Abortion” was the headline of a Sept. 5 article in liberal journalism’s crown jewel, The Atlantic. That didn’t stop the nominee, so a week later Democrats started coming after him on a sexual accusation that some of them had known about two months before. Let’s not reward them. Republicans are also acting politically, of course, but this time Biblical standards concerning witnesses are on their side.
AS KAVANAUGH WAS LOSING HIS REPUTATION, some South Carolina residents were losing their lives. Mark Carter King, 63, and Debra Collins Rion, 61, died of carbon monoxide poisoning from running a generator indoors. Two mental health patients, Wendy Newton, 45, and Nicolette Green, 43, drowned when floodwaters swept away the van in which deputies were driving them. Rhonda R. Hartley, 30, drove her pickup truck into standing water near Gilbert, S.C., lost control, and hit a tree. Michael Dalton Prince, 23, died after the truck he was riding in landed upside down in a flooded ditch.
In North Carolina, a 3-month-old baby boy died when a large pine tree fell atop a mobile home, splitting it in the middle. A mother and her 8-month-old child died when a massive tree crushed their brick house in Wilmington. One man, 78, died from electrocution in the rain while trying to connect extension cords for a generator, and another, 77, died when he went outside to check on his hunting dogs and was blown down by strong winds. A 46-year-old man in Brunswick County died when a tree he was cutting fell on him.