Print this page

Freethought Today · March 2017

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

FFRF apprehensive about Gorsuch as court nominee

FFRF is concerned about the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Gorsuch, 49, a former Catholic who converted to Episcopalianism, would be the lone Protestant on the Supreme Court, along with five Catholic and three Jewish justices. Gorsuch's educational qualifications are excellent, but his record is disturbing.

Gorsuch, currently on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, joined the now infamous Hobby Lobby decision that for-profit companies have religious rights — a ruling that the Supreme Court upheld, allowing corporations to trample women employees' contraceptive rights in the process.

According to Eric Citron at the Peabody-winning SCOTUSblog, Gorsuch "is skeptical of efforts to purge religious expression from public spaces (like Scalia)." This skepticism — antagonism would be a more accurate description — is evident in two of Gorsuch's dissents. In each instance, the 10th Circuit decided not to rehear a case that a three-judge panel had decided.

Gorsuch dissented in a case that removed roadside crosses as Establishment Clause violations, when the 10th Circuit decided not to rehear the case. He wrote that it was a "biased presumption" to assume that roadside crosses erected by the government and bearing government insignia are unconstitutional endorsements of religion. Gorsuch thinks the quintessential symbol of Christianity, the cross, stamped with state symbols, is not a religious endorsement.

He also dissented when the 10th Circuit decided not to rehear a case that removed a Ten Commandments monument from a county courthouse in Oklahoma. In that decision, Gorsuch wrote, "public displays focusing on the ideals and history of a locality do not run afoul of the Establishment Clause just because they include the Ten Commandments."

Gorsuch's record reveals that he cannot be trusted to abide by even well-established legal principles within state/church separation law. Federal courts, including the Supreme Court, have recognized that the Latin cross is an exclusively Christian symbol. Yet Gorsuch would have held that Latin crosses and the Ten Commandments — which begin, I AM the LORD thy God, you shall have no other gods before me" — do not endorse Christianity.

"In short, Gorsuch is no friend to the separation of state and church," says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. FFRF has about a dozen ongoing Establishment Clause lawsuits, several of which may be Supreme Court-bound.