In this excerpt from AU's Wall of Separation blog, Director of Communications Rob Boston explains why Neil Gorsuch, President Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court, is a danger to true religious freedom.
You probably haven’t read much lately about Neil Gorsuch, the federal appeals court judge President Donald J. Trump has nominated to the Supreme Court—but that’s about to change.
Gorsuch’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee starts on Monday. The first day will be taken up by statements from committee members and Gorsuch himself. On Tuesday, Gorsuch will start answering questions.
Americans United is deeply concerned over Gorsuch’s approach to religious freedom, including church-state separation, and that’s why we’re opposing his nomination.
Gorsuch was one of the judges on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals who heard the case Hobby Lobby case before it reached the Supreme Court. He took the view that corporations can exercise religion and said that because businesses had religious objections, they could get out of a provision in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that requires employers to provide insurance coverage for birth control to their employees. The Constitution, though, bars religious exemptions like this that would result in real harm to others; it’s troubling that Gorsuch and his fellow judges ignored this important safeguard. Subsequently, the Supreme Court also ruled in favor of the corporations.
In a case also involving the ACA provision on birth control, Little Sisters of the Poor v. Burwell, non-profit organizations challenged the accommodation created for employers with religious objections to the contraception coverage rule. Under the accommodation, a non-profit has only to state its objection in writing, and the government will arrange for a third party to pay for and provide the coverage instead. Remarkably, many religious non-profits argued that the mere act of requesting an accommodation violated their religious freedom. And although the federal court rejected this outlandish claim, Gorsuch objected, contending that the accommodation substantially burdened the non-profits’ religious practice, essentially because they said so.
In both of these cases, Gorsuch signaled his view that religion can be used to justify real harm to others, including the denial of access to crucial healthcare services like contraception. This is an ominous position and one that undermines true religious freedom.
Gorsuch will have the opportunity to explain his view on religious freedom during the hearing, but the positions he’s taken in cases speak for themselves. His views on church-state separation are deeply troubling—and that’s why we don’t believe Gorsuch is the right choice for a seat on the nation’s highest court.
Follow Rob Boston online at @RobBoston1