New Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch is a gift to conservative Christians, and poison for the separation of church and state.
On Friday the U.S. Senate confirmed Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court in a 54-45 vote. Three Democrats joined the Republicans in voting for Gorsuch: Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), and Joe Donnelly (Ind.).
Gorsuch replaces Justice Antonin Scalia, who died February 13, 2016. His confirmation is a victory for President Donald Trump, and restores a conservative majority on the U.S. high court. It also places the secular values upon which this nation was founded at risk.
The New York Times reports Gorsuch has “a strong record of favoring religious freedom over other values.” However, when conservatives claim to value “religious freedom” what they really mean is conservative Christians first, everyone else to the back of the bus. Gorsuch is no exception.
Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) explains some of the concerns with the Gorsuch nomination:
Neil Gorsuch, who serves on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, joined that court’s Hobby Lobby decision, holding that for-profit companies have a religious right to dictate their employees’ contraceptive choices. He dissented in a decision that removed roadside crosses from rights of way, and when the 10th Circuit voted not to rehear a case removing a Ten Commandments monument from a county courthouse in Oklahoma. Gorsuch advocated removing the “reasonable observer” test, used to determine whether religious displays appear to involve government endorsement of religion.
Commenting on the nominee, FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor said:
In short, Gorsuch is no friend to the separation of state and church.
In the Hobby Lobby case Gorsuch argued that corporations can have religious beliefs, and thus corporate management should have a say over what kind of contraception, if any, employees may purchase with company insurance.
In addition to the Hobby Lobby decision, Gorsuch has indirectly indicated that he would oppose abortion rights for women.
(The book) is heavy with the kind of political rhetoric opponents of abortion deploy in the battle over reproductive choice. “Human life is fundamentally and inherently valuable,” Gorsuch wrote in his book, adding that “the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong.”
As Ed Whelan, a former law clerk to Justice Scalia who writes frequently on the courts puts it, “Gee, might that principle have any application to abortion?”
Discussing Gorsuch’s legal approach to cases involving religion, SCOTUS Blog notes that the judge provides conservative Christians with “a sense that the government can permit public displays of religion – and can accommodate deeply held religious views…”
Following the announcement of Gorsuch’s nomination to the court, Amanda Knief, American Atheists’ national legal director, released a statement noting that “Americans deserve better than a judge who would prioritize the ‘religious beliefs’ of a corporation over the right of a woman to make healthcare decisions for herself and the bigotry of some over the fundamental human rights of vulnerable communities.”
The following is an excerpt from that statement:
American Atheists has grave concerns about the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to serve a lifetime appointment on the United States Supreme Court. Judge Gorsuch’s expansionist view of religion as a ‘Get Out of the Law, Free’ card is fundamentally at odds with the history of American jurisprudence and would allow religion to be used as a weapon against women, LGBT people, atheists, and others.
I strongly urge members of the United States Senate to fulfill their Constitutional obligation to look deeply at Judge Gorsuch’s record and determine whether or not his views about religious liberty are in line our American values.
Having examined his record myself, it is clear to me that Americans deserve better than a judge who would prioritize the ‘religious beliefs’ of a corporation over the right of a woman to make healthcare decisions for herself and the bigotry of some over the fundamental human rights of vulnerable communities.
Knief is right – Americans deserve better.
Bottom line: As a Supreme Court Justice, Gorsuch threatens the separation of church and state, and the cherished secular values upon which this nation was founded.
(Portions of this post were previously published here)