Center for Inquiry Holds Grave Doubts Judge Gorsuch Will Uphold American Secular Principles

For Immediate Release: January 31, 2017
Contact: Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director - (207) 358-9785

The record of Judge Gorsuch raises serious concerns about his willingness to prevent the entanglement of religion with government and to uphold the inviolable rights of nonreligious Americans, said the Center for Inquiry today in response to Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court by President Trump.

“A Justice of the Supreme Court must be willing to contradict the wishes of the President that appointed them,” said Nicholas Little, Vice President and General Counsel for CFI. “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.”

“Judge Gorsuch’s prior rulings, along with his expressed philosophy, indicate a dangerous antipathy towards the protections of the First Amendment for nonreligious Americans and those of minority religious faiths,” said Little. “The religiously unaffiliated are the largest ‘faith’ group in the United States, and our society is only becoming more religiously pluralistic with each passing year. So it is essential that the Supreme Court defend Jefferson’s Wall of Separation between church and state. The history of Judge Gorsuch’s decisions shows a disturbing preference for religion over nonreligion, and for Christianity in particular over other beliefs. It is an attitude that is contrary to Supreme Court precedent and fundamental American values.”

Judge Gorsuch was appointed by President George W. Bush to the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit (covering Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming) in 2006 after serving in Bush’s Justice Department. Similar to the late Justice Scalia, he subscribes to the legal theory of textualism – that courts should not look beyond the text of a law to determine its meaning.

Gorsuch wrote a concurrence in the Tenth Circuit decision in Hobby Lobby v. Sibelius, stressing the idea that the plaintiffs themselves were the sole arbiters of whether a law violated their faith, thereby dramatically extending the coverage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), and expanding the opportunities for individuals to demand religious exemptions from laws.

Gorsuch has also shown a willingness to support legal privilege for religious, in particular Christian, views:

  • In his dissent in the case of Summum v. Pleasant Grove City, he suggested that the government should have been permitted to place a donated Ten Commandments monument in a public park without opening it to other donated monuments;
  • He dissented against a decision not to rehear a case requiring Utah to fund Planned Parenthood;
  • In a book he authored on assisted suicide, Gorsuch stated that he believed that Roe v. Wade could not have been decided as it was if the Court had defined a fetus as a person, as “no constitutional basis exists for preferring the mother’s liberty interests over the child’s life.”

“President Trump has chosen to staff his administration with individuals who are openly antagonistic to America’s secular principles, and he has issued draconian executive orders targeting abortion rights overseas, barring Muslims from entry into the country, and prioritized Christians over non-Christians,” observed Robyn Blumner, President and CEO of CFI. “Now more than ever we need a Supreme Court that will courageously uphold our foundational rights, not return us to a time of greater Christian privilege. There is little evidence that Judge Gorsuch is up to this crucial task.”

The Center for Inquiry urges the Senate to fully exercise its constitutional responsibility of advice and consent, and to question Judge Gorsuch closely on his philosophy regarding church-state separation, the propriety of religious exemptions to anti-discrimination legislation, access to reproductive health services, and other such vital issues in which Americans’ fundamental rights are at stake.


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The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and the Council for Secular Humanism. The Center for Inquiry strives to foster a secular society based on reason, science, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at