The church in Pennsylvania was working simultaneously to shield child abusers while pushing for laws to punish women for consensual sex, so the easy charge to reach for is “hypocrisy.” But that’s an accusation that barely skims the surface. The far more troubling reality is that the willingness to cover for sexual predators is entirely consistent with advocating for restrictions on women’s reproductive rights. Both attitudes are rooted in the same poisonous commitment to putting men in positions of permanent social dominance, as well as rejecting the idea that women and children have bodily autonomy and sexual safety rights.
This truth has become more evident in the past couple of years, as the Christian right has thrown its full support behind Donald Trump. There was a significant amount of pundit chatter around the question of whether or not the self-appointed sex scolds of evangelical Christianity would hold it against Trump that he was caught on tape bragging about his adulteries and claiming that he accosts women because “when you’re a star, they let you do it.” Instead, the Christian right rallied the troops and helped Trump into the White House, where they continue to defend him as more stories come out about his payoffs to porn stars and models for their silence.
But in fact there was never any real conflict between the Christian right and Trump. Religious conservative posturing about “morality” has always been a thin cover story for the real agenda, which is enacting social control and asserting male dominance over women. Trump, who calls women “dogs” and clearly believes they have no value outside of their sexual desirability, is perfectly aligned with a conservative Christian movement whose insincere platitudes about “values” serve mainly to hobble women’s efforts at equality. Trump and the Christian right are aligned in their true belief, which is that women must be kept in their place.