Secular groups raise alarm at 4th Circuit nominee Allison Rushing

Several secular groups are opposing the confirmation of Allison Rushing, a just-announced nominee to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. If confirmed, Rushing will serve a lifetime appointment to the court.

In addition to outlining several other concerns, the groups call specific attention to her alarming views on religious freedom in a joint letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Notably, Rushing has not completed 12 years of practicing law to meet the minimum requirements of the American Bar Association, which Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., recently noted was the “gold standard” for determining a judge’s qualifications.

Additionally, in 2005 Rushing penned an article for Engage, The Federalist Society’s journal, entitled “Nothing to Stand On: ‘Offended Observers’ and the Ten Commandments,” written in conjunction with a senior counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund (now Alliance Defending Freedom), an organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated a hate group. In it, Rushing argued that “offended observers” should never be allowed a day in court to challenge government actions that violate the Establishment Clause, leaving citizens completely unable to hold the government accountable even for some clear constitutional violations.

Rushing’s article is openly hostile to those she pejoratively labeled “village secularists” who had “eggshell sensitivities” because they were offended by large religious monuments on government land.

It is clear, the secular organizations' letter contends, that Rushing cannot be trusted to give secularists a fair hearing in any Establishment Clause case, noting similar instances when Rushing has labelled plaintiffs whom she disfavors as merely “offended.”

The letter goes on to point out that Rushing’s troubling argument invents a problem to avoid enforcing the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution when it does not suit her. “In other words, for Rushing it’s not about applying the law or fair process, it’s about reaching her desired outcome,” the letter states. “This is not appropriate for a federal appellate judge.”

Finally, and perhaps most concerningly, the letter points out that in the aforementioned article Rushing ignored precedent that stands against her position. “To fail to squarely address a precedent that is on point — let alone one that is in the very same case one is arguing — is not just poor lawyering, it would violate an ethical duty if done in court,” the secularist groups’ letter notes.

The organizations are urging the Senate Judiciary Committee to vote against the confirmation of Allison Rushing to the 4th Circuit Court. To do otherwise would be an affront to the U.S. Constitution.

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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