What Trump’s SCOTUS pick means for people of faith
President Donald J. Trump announced his nominee for the Supreme Court on Tuesday night, picking Neil Gorsuch, a federal judge in Colorado appointed by George W. Bush.
Mr. Gorsuch attends an Episcopal church in Boulder, where he was listed on the church website as an usher during a service earlier this month. The church, St. John’s, describes itself as a “inclusive, Christ-centered community.”
If he is confirmed, Mr. Gorsuch will be the only Protestant on the court, currently comprised of five Catholic and three Jewish justices.
Mr. Gorsuch, who attended the Jesuit-run Georgetown Preparatory School in Washington, appeals to conservatives because of his views on religious liberty and life issues. He has not ruled on major abortion cases, but Mr. Gorsuch wrote a book in 2009 that lays out a case against the legalization of physician-assisted suicide.
“All human beings are intrinsically valuable and the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong,” he wrote in The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia.
On the religious liberty front, Mr. Gorsuch sided with both Hobby Lobby and the Little Sisters of the Poor in clashes with the Obama administration about provisions of the Affordable Care Act that they argued violated their religious freedom.
In another religious liberty case, the judge also ruled that a Native American prisoner must be allowed access to a sweat lodge, according to the National Review.
He has written that the religious freedom laws must be interpreted broadly to include more than the freedom to worship.
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, he wrote, “doesn’t just apply to protect popular religious beliefs: it does perhaps its most important work in protecting unpopular religious beliefs, vindicating this nation’s long-held aspiration to serve as a refuge of religious tolerance.”
At SCOTUSBlog, Eric Cintron wrote, “Gorsuch has shown himself to be an ardent defender of religious liberties and pluralistic accommodations for religious adherents.”
Mr. Cintron also notes that the judge’s past rulings suggest that he is comfortable with public displays of religion and that “he would be a natural successor to Scalia in adopting a pro-religion conception of the establishment clause.”
Addressing the March for Life last week in Washington, Vice President Mike Pence promised a nominee “who will uphold the God-given liberties enshrined in our Constitution in the tradition of the late and great Justice Antonin Scalia,” a favorite among Catholic conservatives.
Robert Barnes, a Supreme Court reporter for The Washington Post, wrote that Mr. Gorsuch fulfills that promise.
“Like Scalia, Gorsuch is a proponent of originalism—meaning that judges should attempt to interpret the words of the Constitution as they were understood at the time they were written—and a textualist who considers only the words of the law being reviewed, not legislators’ intent or the consequences of the decision,” he wrote.
During his speech announcing Mr. Gorsuch’s nomination, Mr. Trump said that “millions of voters said this was the single most important issue to them when they voted for me for president.”
That sentiment was echoed in a statement released Wednesday morning by Joseph Cella, the organizer of a group of Catholics who had advised the Trump campaign.
“During the presidential campaign, the Catholic Advisory Group highlighted Supreme Court nominations as one of the issues of greatest importance to Catholics,” the statement read. “Ultimately, this particular issue was a determining factor in President Trump’s winning a solid majority of support among Catholics who were seeking a worthy successor to the late Justice Antonin Scalia. We could not have asked for a better selection for our nation's highest court than Judge Gorsuch.”
The White House had originally planned to announce the pick on Thursday, the same day as the National Prayer Breakfast. The announcement was moved up over the weekend when thousands of demonstrators headed to U.S. airports to protest the administration’s rules that temporarily halt all refugee resettlement in the United States.
There has been a vacant seat on the Supreme Court since last February when Justice Antonin Scalia died. Former President Barack Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to fill the spot last March, but Senate Republicans refused to hold hearings.
David Lat, editor of the legal website Above the Law, told The Denver Post that he expects Mr. Gorsuch to be confirmed. “He has grabbed every brass ring,” he said. “He’s brilliant, conservative and impossible to oppose. That’s a deadly combination for Democrats.”
This story includes updates.