Evangelical backers of President Donald Trump have hailed the Senate's confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court justice on Saturday.
Kavanaugh's appointment was dogged by controversy after he was accused of sexual misconduct by a number of women including Christine Blasey Ford, who said he had attempted to rape her when they were both teenagers. He strongly denied the accusations and public opinion divided sharply on party lines. Evangelicals largely favoured Kavanaugh, whose appointment tips the bench decisively in a conservative direction.
Conservatives will now have a five-four majority in any future legal battles on contentious issues such as abortion rights, immigration, transgender rights, industry regulation and presidential powers.
Franklin Graham tweeted: Congratulations to #SCOTUS Justice Brett Kavanaugh! He didn't deserve to be treated the way he was in this process – no one deserves that. I'm thankful that God overruled. Let's pray for him & his family in this critical appointment. I'm confident he will do a great job.'
Pastor Paula White-Cain praised Trump for 'once again keeping his promise to appoint a defender of the Constitution, as the Evangelical community voted with this as a priority'. 'Not only is the new Justice Kavanaugh a good and decent man, but he is also one of the most respected legal minds of his generation. I believe he will serve our nation with distinction, just as he has done for the last 28 years of his legal career. God bless the entire Kavanaugh family, as they can finally begin this new and exciting chapter.'
Jason Yates, chief executive of My Faith Votes, said the Kavanaugh appointment process was 'the most raucous, partisan and unseemly affair to come out of Washington in recent memory – perhaps ever'. He placed the blame firmly on the Democrats, saying opposition to Kavanaugh was 'a hijacking of the legitimacy and intent of the #MeToo movement for political expediency' and a 'shallow tactic'.
'Now is a time for Christians to pray,' he said. 'Justice Kavanaugh has been afforded the rare privilege to serve on the highest court in the land, and his decisions will impact Americans for generations. So let us pray for him, that his service to this nation would be the epitome of impartiality, integrity and an unswerving commitment to the Constitution.'
He added: 'Let us also pray for our nation, that the seething anger and discord of our politics of late would no longer drive us apart.'
Pastor and evangelist Greg Laurie said: 'Whatever your politics, it is difficult to look back on the last weeks in Washington with anything other than exasperation and sorrow. It hasbeen a circus.'
He urged Christians to 'pray for Judge Kavanaugh, that his time on the Supreme Court would be full of wisdom and integrity, and that God himself would guide ALL OUR JUSTICES'.
Dr Ronnie Floyd, president of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, urged national unity, saying: 'Whatever your inclination on the whole issue – whether Judge Kavanaugh should or should not have been confirmed to the Supreme Court – our infighting has left America worse off than it was before. Once again, we are more divided, more hurt, more tribalized and more cynical. When our opinions become more important than people, we all lose.'
The church, he said, should be 'a force of unity, love and civility both within and without'.
Rev Dr Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, described the confirmation hearings as 'one of the ugliest and most controversial' in US history and also called for unity.
'It is in that spirit that I respectfully pray for Justice Kavanaugh, that he will emerge as a great asset to the nation in the preservation of life, the advancement of religious liberty, the defense of the Constitution and ultimately in the service of racial, spiritual and cultural reconciliation.'
The contentious confirmation took place in the shadow of the forthcoming mid-term November elections.
Democrats must gain at least two Senate seats and 23 House seats at the elections to claim majorities in each chamber, enabling them to block Trump's agenda and investigate his administration. The Democrats are seen as having more chance of winning control of the House of Representatives than the Senate.