Paula Patrick, a conservative judge in Philadelphia perhaps best known for being on the wrong side of a Christopher Columbus statue controversy, objects to being called “QAnon-linked.” In fact, she’s filed a false light suit (similar to defamation) against The Daily Beast for using that descriptor in a headline, despite having enthusiastically appeared on an objectively QAnon-linked podcast.
But here’s the kicker. In defense of her decision to appear on the podcast, Judge Patrick insists she “simply thought she was speaking on a show aimed at a Christian audience,” according to reporting by the Philadelphia Inquirer. We have no reason not to take Judge Patrick at her word when she claims that she should have vetted the podcast more carefully. “I’m a Black female,” Judge Patrick said. “I would not be involved in anything that would cause my credibility or character to come into question,” she added, denying that she would deliberately associate herself with a discredited and frankly absurd conspiracy theory.
However, Judge Patrick’s claim that she “didn’t know anything else about any conspiracy theories” is much harder to accept at face value, given that she evidently subscribes to the kind of charismatic, spiritual warfare-focused Christianity that I would argue is inherently conspiratorial. The podcast Judge Patrick appeared on when she was running for the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court is called “Up Front in the Prophetic.”
In her response to host Francine Fosdick’s introduction welcoming her on the show, she noted that she’d been introduced to Fosdick through “Prophet Mark Taylor,” the retired firefighter of The Trump Prophecies infamy who Beth Daley describes as “a QAnon influencer.” Judge Patrick also gushingly addressed Fosdick as “Prophetess Francine,” and added, “I love you guys.”
Not to put too fine a point on it, Judge Patrick’s preferred type of Christianity is steeped in conspiracy theories, including QAnon conspiracies. The connection has been well studied by scholars and journalists, some of whom have effectively argued that core QAnon beliefs about the existence of a secret cabal of pedophiles operating within Hollywood and the Democratic Party are essentially a rehashing of the Satanic Panic of the 1980s.
Meanwhile, the kind of Christian nationalism that pervades American charismatic and conservative, predominantly white, evangelical Christianity is clearly closely associated with QAnon. Using data that was gathered throughout 2021, PRRI recently observed:
“two-thirds of QAnon believers (66%) say that being Christian is important to being truly American, compared to half of QAnon doubters (50%), 43% of all Americans, and one in five QAnon rejecters (20%).”
That is, a sizable majority of QAnon believers see being a Christian as a critical part of their identity. The link between the QAnon conspiracy theory’s prediction of a coming “storm” and the widespread apocalyptic beliefs of evangelical and charismatic Christians is also well established.
Whether any or all of this makes Judge Patrick “QAnon-linked” will now be for the courts to decide. I’m no lawyer or legal expert, so my opinions on such matters should of course be taken with a grain of salt.
That being said, I would absolutely not bet in Judge Patrick’s favor, knowing what we do about her fondness for conspiratorial and explicitly QAnon-linked “prophets” and the broader interplay between QAnon conspiracies and conservative Christian beliefs in American society. On the other hand, given the number of judges Donald Trump was able to appoint during his term as president, I wouldn’t bet the farm against her either.