A slew of Christian leaders and First Amendment activists have been heaping praise on federal judge Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, pointing to Gorsuch’s record on religious liberty, among other issues, to voice fervent approval.
“When it comes to religious liberty, Judge Gorsuch is smarter than your average bear,” Eric Rassbach, deputy general counsel at Becket Fund, a religious liberty nonprofit, said in a statement to Faithwire. And Kelly Shackelford, president and CEO of First Liberty Institute, yet another religious liberty law firm, agreed.
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“As a candidate, President Trump promised to appoint pro-religious freedom judges to the Supreme Court. Today, he took a positive step toward achieving that goal,” he said. “As a religious freedom law firm, we have one criterion for evaluating judicial candidates. We ask, ‘Does this candidate have a proven record of upholding the Constitution, especially as it relates to religious freedom?’”
Shackelford continued, “I am pleased to say that Judge Gorsuch has just such a record, authoring or joining multiple landmark opinions upholding religious freedom.”
Others joined in on that chorus as well, including Carl Anderson, head of the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic organization. Anderson released comments to Faithwire, applauding Gorsuch’s nomination and said that he believes, if confirmed, the judge will interpret the Constitution in its proper context.
“From his writings and his record it is clear that he will interpret the Constitution as it was written, including our first Amendment right to religious freedom, and the right to life of every person,” he said. “Judge Gorsuch was confirmed without opposition to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2006, and has received a ‘unanimously well qualified’ rating from the American Bar Association. It is hard to imagine a better, and more qualified, candidate.”
Well-known faith leader Dr. James Dobson also released a statement commending Trump for choosing Gorsuch, saying he’s “greatly encouraged” by the development; he also implored Gorsuch — if confirmed — to stand strong on religious liberty and the “sanctity of human life.”
“I thank God that if confirmed, this administration will have delivered on one of its most critical campaign promises — to appoint a judge in the mold of the late Justice Antonin Scalia who will uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States and the original intent of its framers,” Dobson said.
Even Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission — a fierce Trump critic — praised Gorsuch in a series of tweets, calling him qualified and specifically pointing to his First Amendment views.
“Judge Gorsuch has a strong record upholding our First Amendment guarantees of religious liberty and freedom of conscience,” he tweeted. “I hope we see strong bipartisan support for Judge Gorsuch for #SCOTUS. His qualifications are beyond question.”
Judge Gorsuch has a strong record upholding our First Amendment guarantees of religious liberty and freedom of conscience.
— Russell Moore (@drmoore) February 1, 2017
I hope we see strong bipartisan support for Judge Gorsuch for #SCOTUS. His qualifications are beyond question.
— Russell Moore (@drmoore) February 1, 2017
Others like Christian author and public relations executive Johnnie Moore were more sweeping in their praise, pointing to the pledge Trump had repeatedly made during the campaign to select conservative justices for the Supreme Court.
“President Trump has not only fulfilled his most important promise to the evangelical community in this selection, he has gone over and above by repeatedly doubling down on those issues most important to the community during his first ten days as president,” Moore told Faithwire in a statement. “His endorsement of and the administration’s participation in the March for Life coupled with his prompt attention to the Mexico City Ruling were a precursors to tonight’s very good news.”
He continued, “Should this nominee be confirmed, Scalia’s legacy will live on for at least another generation. Evangelicals are ecstatic.”
While there’s much praise on the conservative and Christian fronts, others are protesting against Gorsuch, with the Center for Inquiry, an atheist group, saying its leaders have “grave doubts” about the justice’s ability to protect the values of secular Americans.
“A Justice of the Supreme Court must be willing to contradict the wishes of the President that appointed them,” Nicholas Little, vice-president and general counsel for the Center for Inquiry, said in a statement. “And we have grave doubts that Judge Gorsuch is someone who will weigh his duty to the Constitution over ideological loyalty to an administration that has already proven its hostility to secular government and tolerance of dissent.”
Protestors had already taken to the Supreme Court steps on Tuesday night to voice their frustrations over Trump’s pick — a judge who likely won’t be very sympathetic to liberal causes. For many evangelicals, though, Tuesday night was momentous in that it was the fulfillment of a promise that served as the sole basis of — or the main reason for — their decision to vote for Trump in November.
Read what Ed Stetzer had to say about the Supreme Court, evangelicals and Trump here.
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