Letter to John Roberts

Chief Justice John Roberts
Supreme Court of the United States
Washington DC 20543

Dear Chief Justice:

On behalf of our national membership, our organization, which works to protect the constitutional separation of church and state, is writing to protest your presence at the Oct. 2 "Red Mass" held for the Supreme Court.

Cardinal McCarrick is certainly free to say any masses he likes. But it is unseemly for the Chief Justice or other members of the U.S. Supreme Court, in their official capacity as justices, to attend a formal religious service held for the Court by one denomination. It appears as if one particular denomination has your ear and that of the U.S. Supreme Court. The news photos, revealing a cozy bonhomie between the Chief Justice, a Cardinal and the President, were particularly disturbing.

This ill-advised appearance at a religious worship/media event even led to widespread media reports that the U.S. Supreme Court term had "opened" with the Red Mass! In reading the U.S. Constitution, we can find no instructions that the Supreme Court should commence its term with religious worship or "Red Masses." Our secular Constitution explicitly forbids religious tests for public office or the establishment of religion by our government.

There are well over 2,000 different Christian sects worshipping in the United States, not to mention other religions. If every denomination summoned the Supreme Court to attend a special Supreme Court worship service, the Court would do nothing but attend sermons!

With four members of the high court now practicing Catholics, it behooves the Court to scrupulously avoid any appearance that America's largest religious denomination is favored or endorsed--or is calling the shots. The Roman Catholic Conference regularly lobbies and speaks out against the right to death with dignity, and abortion, both issues before the Court this term. Appearing at this mass is a conflict of interest.

As a private citizen, you and the Justices of course are free to worship as you choose. But you were summoned to a Red Mass in your official capacity. Please absent yourself from future Red Masses or any other activities which lend an appearance of union between the Supreme Court and a religious denomination.


Annie Laurie Gaylor

cc: Justices Scalia, Thomas, Kennedy, and Breyer

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

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