Kavanaugh’s Record of Advancing Christian Privilege Wrong for Supreme Court

For Immediate Release: July 10, 2018
Contact: Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director
press@centerforinquiry.org - (207) 358-9785

The Center for Inquiry today urged caution and vigilance from the Senate as it considers the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court to ensure that he will be a justice who will uphold the rights of all Americans equally, and not use his place on the bench to advance an agenda of Christian privilege.

Kavanaugh’s record is one of political partisanship, a record that led to his nomination to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia being held up for three years. Kavanaugh worked for Ken Starr both as Solicitor General and for the Office of Independent Counsel during the investigation of President Clinton. He later served as Associate Counsel to President George W. Bush.

“Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination represents another installment in President Trump’s payoff to the evangelical Religious Right who elected him,” said Nick Little, CFI’s Vice President and General Counsel. “The President is seeking to cram the Court full of jurists who will roll back hard won protections for women, the LGBTQ community, religious minorities, and atheists.”

Examples of Kavanaugh’s disturbing record on issues core to CFI’s mission include:

  • In the case of Garza v Hargan, Judge Kavanaugh allowed the government to refuse to allow an undocumented minor immigrant from accessing abortion care, a decision later overturned by the full panel of the D.C. Circuit.
  • In a brief in Santa Fe v. Doe, Kavanaugh argued that not allowing prayers over a megaphone at a public school would lead to “the full extermination of private religious speech from the public schools.”
  • In Priests for Life v. HHS, he dissented from the majority, saying that the non-profit exemption to the Affordable Care Act’s Contraceptive Mandate, requiring nonprofits to sign a form saying they did not want to provide contraceptive coverage, constituted an unacceptable burden on the non-profit’s religious rights.
  • In Newdow v. Roberts, regarding “so help me God” in the presidential oath of office, Kavanaugh wrote to express his opinion that such public and official use of religion was permissible despite Article VI of the Constitution and the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment forbidding religious tests for public office.

“This nominee represents an extreme view of religious freedom that has no basis in the founding principles of this country,” noted Little. “If appointed, Judge Kavanaugh will sit on our country’s highest court potentially for decades, and will have the power to overturn Roe v. Wade, allowing states to once again criminalize abortion and send women back to unsafe, unsanitary, backstreet abortionists.

“He will be able to overturn Justice Kennedy’s legacy of expanding fundamental rights to more Americans, including the right to marry for gays and lesbians. He will be able to double down on the Hobby Lobby decision and carve out exemptions for religious people from swathes of laws, including the civil rights laws which protect the vulnerable in society.”

CFI called upon the Senate, which must approve Kavanaugh’s nomination, to undertake its role with appropriate vigor.

“Elevating religious dogma over and above the law of the land and the fundamental rights of Americans is a prescription for destabilizing America’s peaceful coexistence among people of varied faiths and no faith,” said Robyn Blumner, CFI’s President and CEO. “A seat on the Supreme Court is not a prize for the President’s most vocal supporters, but rather a critically important trust. The Constitution’s religion clauses protect religious minorities and atheists by acting as a bulwark against a government preference for religion. Judge Kavanaugh’s history suggests he sees strict church-state separation as somehow unfair to religion — a dangerous stance that tosses out well-established and vital protections for us all.”

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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 centerforinquiry.org.