Trump-appointed judges needlessly inject bible verse into class action case

Trump-appointed judges needlessly inject bible verse into class action case

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is rebuking two President Trump-appointed federal appeals court judges for gratuitously injecting a bible verse into a debate about an unrelated legal question.

The judges, who both sit on the archconservative 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, unnecessarily cited a verse from the Christian New Testament and one even added a pious declaration of belief in God.

At issue in Louisiana v. 13 Verticals is a class action challenge regarding allegedly defective software. A nuanced rule involves the question of whether plaintiffs were “seeking significant relief” from a defendant, specifically when they may have known the defendant had no assets.

The majority opinion, authored by Judge James C. Ho, in considering the definition of “seek,” turned to the New Testament, citing Matthew 7:7, noting that “although the Bible teaches that those who seek from the Lord shall find, when we seek something from our fellow man, we don’t always get it.” Not to be outdone by this religious showboating, Judge Andrew Oldham countered in his dissent by writing, “The Bible says ‘seek, and ye shall find’ precisely because God gives us hope and faith . . . two things that plaintiffs do not have in ‘seeking’ to recover from a defunct shell company.”

While these biblical references were not the only sources considered, and were not the legal basis for either judge’s conclusion, the gratuitous religious references are nevertheless cause for concern. Both judges have a history of giving religion undue treatment under the law. In 2020, Ho, who was on the Trump Supreme Court shortlist, dissented from an opinion regarding Covid-19 restrictions, arguing that religious objections ought to be treated more favorably than any others. Ho also issued a partial dissent in the August ruling by an appeals court panel upholding restrictions on telehealth, mail-order shipments and use of the abortion medication mifepristone after seven weeks, saying the ruling did not go far enough and ought to have banned the medication altogether. In 2021, Oldham authored an opinion overturning a lower court decision in favor of FFRF’s challenge to courtroom prayer in Texas.

Federal judges using biblical verses like references or citations in their opinions gives fodder to those who dishonestly proclaim that the United States is a Christian nation. While this notion is long debunked and devoid of historical support, the same theocrats who point smugly at “In God We Trust” on a U.S. bill (added in 1957) can now say that their favorite holy book is cited in American judicial opinions. Although these are “bad faith” arguments, they can confuse the issue and persuade people who lack a strong knowledge of history.

In 2020, FFRF published a report on the alarming trend of Christian nationalists inserted into the federal judiciary by Trump, Sen. Mitch McConnell and the Federalist Society.

“This biblical debate is a stark reminder that religion, and specifically a particular brand of Christianity, holds unwarranted prominence in the minds of some powerful federal judges,” comments FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Religious favoritism by many in the current federal judiciary seriously imperils the constitutional separation between state and church.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is committed to upholding the country’s core foundational principle of an entirely secular government, the only way to secure true religious freedom for all. It urges Americans who value religious freedom to insist on a judiciary that understands this principle and applies it to their crucial and highly consequential work.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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