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Kelly Shackelford: Judge Gorsuch Has Solid Record on Religious Freedom

Key cases give clues regarding U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch’s future rulings on your religious liberty.

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February 3, 2017

Key cases give clues regarding U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch’s future rulings on your religious liberty.

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump announced his nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court. Judge Gorsuch has served on the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit since 2006.

Immediately after the announcement, Kelly Shackelford, President and CEO of First Liberty Institute—the largest legal organization in the nation defending religious liberty for all Americans—praised Judge Gorsuch’s consistent record on religious liberty.

Read First Liberty’s press release.

“As a candidate, President Trump promised to appoint pro-religious freedom judges to the Supreme Court,” Shackelford says. “He took a positive step toward achieving that goal.”


FIRST LIBERTY ANALYZED THE PROSPECTS

For weeks, First Liberty attorneys have poured over Judge Gorsuch’s record on religious freedom.

This is part of an ongoing effort to provide analysis and input to the new administration on nominees to the High Court and other federal courts.

“As a religious freedom law firm, we have one criterion for evaluating judicial candidates,” said Shackelford about this process. “We ask, ‘Does this candidate have a proven record of upholding the Constitution, especially as it relates to religious freedom?’ I am pleased to say that Judge Gorsuch has just such a record, authoring or joining multiple landmark opinions upholding religious freedom.”


LANDMARK DECISIONS ON RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

Some of the most notable religious freedom opinions Judge Gorsuch wrote or signed as a judge on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals include:

  • HHS Abortion Pill Mandate – Judge Gorsuch wrote and joined opinions supporting the rights of ministries and closely-held family businesses to be free from the burden imposed by the HHS Abortion Pill Mandate (Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. v. Sebelius (2013), Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged v. Burwell (2015)).
  • Establishment Clause – Judge Gorsuch wrote or signed opinions upholding the constitutionality of the public display of Ten Commandments monuments (Summum v. Pleasant Grove City (2007), Green v. Haskell County Bd. of Cnty. Commissioners (2009)).
  • Monuments and Memorials – Judge Gorsuch wrote an opinion defending the existence of cross-shaped memorials for fallen state troopers (American Atheists, Inc. v. Duncan (2010)).

The Tenth Circuit hears appeals from federal district courts in Colorado, Utah, Kansas, Oklahoma, Wyoming, and New Mexico.

Judge Gorsuch was nominated to the Court by President George W. Bush, and unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

But no one expects his path through the Senate to be easy this time, as opponents are already mobilizing—an effort that includes zeroing in on Judge Gorsuch’s positions on issues where he has found the Constitution consistent with religious freedom.


FOLLOWING THE TRADITION OF JUSTICE SCALIA

In 2016, speaking of Justice Scalia, he said, “focus on text, structure, and history is essential to the proper exercise of the judicial function.”

He said that “judges should be in the business of declaring what the law is using the traditional tools of interpretation, rather than pronouncing the law as they might wish it to be in light of their own political views . . . Though the critics are loud and the temptations to join them may be many, mark me down too as a believer that the traditional account of the judicial role Justice Scalia defended will endure.”

Such statements, along with his record in court, give hope to friends of religious freedom.

“America needs Supreme Court justices who will uphold the Constitution and defend the religious liberty of every American,” Kelly Shackelford says. “I am hopeful that Judge Gorsuch will live up to President Trump’s and the American people’s expectations and strongly protect our constitutional freedoms.”

News and Commentary is brought to you by First Liberty’s team of writers and legal experts.

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