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"Before you take this historic vote today, one week before Christmas, I want you to keep this in mind," the Georgia Republican said Dec. 18.
"When Jesus was falsely accused of treason, Pontius Pilate gave Jesus the opportunity to face his accusers. During that sham trial, Pontius Pilate afforded more rights to Jesus than the Democrats have afforded this president in this process."
The comparison didn’t stand up well among experts in religion and law.
We asked Loudermilk’s press secretary, Brandon Cockerham, for information to back Loudermilk’s statement, but didn’t get a reply.
The Catholic News Agency reported that Cockerham defended the statement in an email to the news service, saying:
"Congressman Loudermilk was simply making a comparison about the process; that Pontius Pilate allowed Jesus (to) face his accusers, but the Democrats refused to allow the president or Republicans to even know who the accuser was, much less the right to question him or her."
Cockerham was alluding to the whistleblower, whose complaint about Trump’s dealings with Ukraine triggered the impeachment proceedings. That person’s identity has remained confidential.
But Loudermilk didn’t single out the whistleblower; rather, he alluded to multiple accusers.
Several passages from the New Testament of the Bible tell how Jesus appeared before Pontius Pilate, a Roman governor, before being crucified.
During Passover, Pilate freed any prisoner the people asked for. Jesus was accused of blasphemy and treason for stating he was the King of the Jews.
From Matthew Chapter 27, on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website:
Now Jesus stood before the governor, and he questioned him, "Are you the king of the Jews?" Jesus said, "You say so."
And when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he made no answer.
Then Pilate said to him, "Do you not hear how many things they are testifying against you?"
But he did not answer him one word, so that the governor was greatly amazed.
Jesus received no due process before Pilate, according to Robert Tuttle, professor of law and religion at George Washington University. "He just questions Jesus and says he finds no fault, then asks the crowd what they want done."
The passages from the biblical books of Matthew (chapter 27), Mark (chapter 15) and Luke (chapter 23) "pretty much agree on the story," said Douglas Laycock, a professor of law and religious studies at the University of Virginia.
"No one says that Jesus was offered a lawyer, or a chance to bring one, or a chance to call his own witnesses. No one said he could testify in writing if he didn't want to answer orally," Laycock told us. "They say the priests and scribes made accusations; no one says that any witnesses were called to support those accusations. Pilate thought Jesus was innocent, but the mob demanded his execution and Pilate finally acquiesced."
Trump was not denied a fair hearing, said Michael Gerhardt, author of "Impeachment: What Everyone Needs to Know" and a University of North Carolina professor of law who testified before Congress in support of impeaching Trump. "He was invited but declined, and still had his bully pulpit."
Allan Lichtman, author of "The Case for Impeachment" (from April 2017) and a history professor at American University, said Trump’s supporters in the House and their attorneys could have cross-examined witnesses, Trump declined an invitation to present a defense before the Judiciary Committee, and he blocked witnesses from appearing.
"The only comparison between these two proceedings is that they both pretty much refused to defend themselves in the actual tribunal," Laycock said.
Loudermilk said, "When Jesus was falsely accused of treason, Pontius Pilate gave Jesus the opportunity to face his accusers. During that sham trial, Pontius Pilate afforded more rights to Jesus than the Democrats have afforded this president in this process."
Biblical accounts cited to us by experts in law and religion say Jesus was questioned by the Roman governor, not given an opportunity by Pilate to face his accusers. Trump has yet to go on trial in the Senate. But before being impeached by the House, he was given the opportunity to present a defense.
We rate Loudermilk’s statement False.
YouTube, Barry Loudermilk clip, Dec. 18, 2019
Catholic News Agency, "Rep. Loudermilk defends comparison of Trump impeachment to Pontius Pilate and Jesus Christ," Dec. 18, 2019
Email, Jeanine Kraybill, assistant professor of political science and director of the Pre-Law Program at California State University, Bakersfield, Dec. 18, 2019
Email, Douglas Laycock, professor of law and religious studies at the University of Virginia, Dec. 18, 2019
Email, Robert Tuttle, professor of law and religion at George Washington University, Dec. 18, 2019
Email, Diana Eck, professor of comparative religion and Indian studies and professor of law and psychiatry, Harvard Divinity School, Dec. 18, 2019
Email, Wayne State University professor of law Peter Henning, Dec. 18, 2019
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Matthew Chapter 27
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Mark Chapter 15
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Luke Chapter 13
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