After eight long years of battling with the Obama Administration to protect religious liberty, we may have an ally on the nation’s highest federal court more uncompromisingly conservative than Antonin Scalia.
Neil Gorsuch, the judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit who most notably sided with Hobby Lobby in their 2013 case and the Little Sisters of the Poor in 2016, resembles Scalia in almost every area of law. As noted by the Scotus Blog, Gorsuch only differs from Scalia on Administrative Law by taking an arguably more conservative stance.
Gorsuch would spare no punches in declaring that agencies such as Health and Human Services lack the authority to mandate compliance with statutes that contradict the beliefs of religious institutes and organizations.
Furthermore, not only is Gorsuch a strong textualist and originalist interpreter of the Constitution as was Scalia, he is an ardent defender of pro-life businesses.
His rulings on behalf of Hobby Lobby and the Little Sisters of the Poor showed that he stands with businesses who object to effectively paying for “drugs or devices that have the effect of destroying a fertilized human egg.” The Washington Post noted that in his book, Gorsuch declared “all human beings are intrinsically valuable and the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong.”
Besides these high-profile religious liberty cases, the Scotus Blog also points to Gorsuch’s written or joined opinions that criticize doctrines which limit religious expression in public places. His dissents in earlier cases, Summon v. Pleasant Grove City (2007), Green v. Haskell County Boad. of Commissioners (2009), and American Atheists Inc. v. Davenport (2010), show his inclination to defend public displays of religion.
This strong track record of defending religious liberty and a check on the power of Federal agencies demonstrates that should similar cases arise in the near future, Gorsuch is the Justice to count on to preserve these institutions.
Possible upcoming battles for conservatives will be challenges to the repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate, the First Amendment Defense Act, and Federal mandates on school bathrooms. Should Gorsuch be confirmed in time to hear these cases, conservatives can rest easy knowing the Constitution will be defended instead of the political agenda of the liberal elite.
Even moderate Democrats can agree that a balance on the Court is necessary, and Scalia’s unfortunate passing leaves it without a strong constitutionalist voice. Such a voice will be essential in upcoming cases that go to the very heart of issues constitutionalists such as Gorsuch (and a significant number of Americans who made their voices heard this past November) hold dear.
Religious liberty is an essential part of what distinguishes America as the freest nation on Earth. The nomination and successful confirmation of Gorsuch would make many Americans proud to have such a strong voice for this principle sitting on our highest Court.
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