The Religious Right Is Thrilled About Neil Gorsuch

Protester at the Supreme Court, 2015 (Flickr/Elvert Barnes)

As Brian wrote yesterday, the Religious Right got behind Donald Trump during the election in a large part because of his explicit promise to appoint a Supreme Court justice who would  advance their policy goals. Last night, they cashed in on that promise when Trump nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court seat that Senate Republicans had kept open for nearly a year.

Religious Right groups quickly issued statements celebrating Gorsuch’s nomination.

The Heritage Foundation posted a blog post calling Gorsuch “an excellent choice”—no surprise, since the behemoth conservative group helped Trump to craft his list of potential Supreme Court picks.

Brian Brown, head of the anti-LGBT National Organization for Marriage, wrote in an email to supporters that his group “is in full support” of Gorsuch, noting that NOM’s chairman, John Eastman, was involved in choosing potential court picks for Trump:

We will be sending a detailed analysis of Justice Gorsuch’s record in the next few days, but the very fact that he was a prominent member on the list of potential judges Mr. Trump pledged to consider speaks volumes already. NOM’s Chairman, Dr. John Eastman, was involved with other leading conservative lawyers, in suggesting names that Mr. Trump should consider. The list from which Justice Gorsuch was chosen is an extraordinary group of individuals with conservative, originalist judicial philosophies, individuals committed to assessing cases based on what the constitution actually says, rather than legislate from the bench and “interpret” the constitution to mean something the judge wishes it said. Such judicial activism is at the root of both the Obergefell decision redefining marriage, and Roe v Wade inventing a constitutional  “right” to abortion.

The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, who was invited to the announcement event, reminded Trump that the Supreme Court is the reason social conservatives voted for him and expressed confidence that Gorsuch would be “a fine Supreme Court justice,” especially on the issue of “religious liberty”:

“In the third presidential debate, Donald Trump drove home his point about the type of Supreme Court nominees that he would select.   I believe that moment in the debate helped sealed the deal with millions of social conservative voters.  In fact, exit polling found that 21 percent of voters pointed to the Supreme Court as the ‘most important factor driving their vote’ and Trump won that group by 16 points.

“Judge Gorsuch’s record over the last 14 years, especially on religious liberty, gives Americans every reason to believe he will make a fine Supreme Court justice. His reputation as a judge with integrity and dedication to the Constitution should be an encouragement to all Americans.

Ralph Reed of the Faith and Freedom Coalition similarly declared that Trump had followed through on his promise to the Religious Right:

President Trump won 81 percent of the evangelical vote in no small measure because he made an ironclad pledge that if elected he would fill the vacancy on the US Supreme Court with a strict constructionist who would respect the Constitution and the rule of law, not legislate from the bench.  We never doubted then-candidate Trump’s sincerity or commitment, and by nominating Judge Neil Gorsuch, he has now kept that promise. Judge Gorsuch is a widely respected jurist whose razor-sharp intellect is complemented by his temperament and the knowledge of the law. He is exactly who the nation needs as a Supreme Court Justice in the model of the late Antonin Scalia. Faith & Freedom Coalition is thrilled by this nomination and will work tirelessly for the confirmation of Judge Gorsuch.

Tim Wildmon, the president of the viciously anti-LGBT American Family Association, urged his group’s members to “thank President Trump for his Supreme Court choice,” citing Gorsuch’s rulings on the ability of companies to withhold contraception coverage from employees:

Gorsuch is a proponent of originalism, the idea that the Constitution should be interpreted as the Founding Fathers would have interpreted it.

Gorsuch is a believer in a broad definition of religious freedom and sided with Christian employers and religious organizations in the cases of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Little Sisters of the Poor.

Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel, who represented Kentucky clerk Kim Davis in her efforts to defy the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling, approvingly pointed to an article Gorsuch wrote slamming what he called progressives’ “overweening addiction to the courtroom as the place to debate social policy” and declared that Gorsuch would stand against “judicial activism”:

“It’s time to return this country back to the rule of law where judges interpret the original meaning of the Constitution and the laws before them,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel.

“Judicial activism is destroying the judiciary and will ultimately weaken the role of the judicial in the eyes of the people. The only power that courts have is the trust of the people that judges will act fairly and put aside personal bias. From the Supreme Court to the state courts, the role of judges is to judge fairly. If they want to be legislators, then let them run for office. Judicial activism has no place on the bench,” Staver concluded.

The Catholic League’s Bill Donohue expressed confidence that Gorsuch “puts a premium on our two most important rights: the right to life, from fertilization to natural death, and religious liberty for all.”

Writing on Facebook, Glenn Beck—who made a big show of being a moral counterweight to Trump during the election—thanked Trump and “those who voted for Trump for SCOTUS” for the nomination:

The Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, led by Trump adversary Russell Moore, similarly praised the nomination in a letter signed by Moore, Never Trump pundit Erick Erickson, the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference’s Samuel Rodriguez, Focus on the Family’s Tim Geoglein, and Southern Baptist leaders Richard Land, Ronnie Floyd, Al Mohler and Paige Patterson, among others.

The anti-choice movement also overwhelmingly applauded the nomination.

Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony List, who was instrumental in rallying the anti-choice movement around Trump before the election, wrote in an email to supporters: “In nominating Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Trump has kept his promise to nominate only pro-life judges to the Supreme Court.” In a press release, Dannenfelser cited Gorsuch’s Hobby Lobby ruling and promised to mobilize grassroots support for his nomination:

President Trump has made an exceptional choice in nominating Neil Gorsuch to carry on the legacy of the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. In nominating Judge Gorsuch, President Trump has kept his promise to nominate only pro-life judges to the Supreme Court. Judge Gorsuch is a distinguished jurist with a strong record of protecting life and religious liberty, as evidenced by his opinions in the Hobby Lobby and Little Sisters of the Poor cases, and in his doctoral dissertation in which he wrote that ‘human life is fundamentally and inherently valuable.’ In the coming days, we will mobilize the pro-life grassroots nationwide and in key Senate battleground states to urge the Senate to swiftly confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Should pro-abortion Democratic Senators choose to filibuster this immensely qualified nominee, they do so at their own political peril.

Fr. Frank Pavone, the head of Priests for Life, wrote in an email to supporters: “Not only is [Gorsuch] pro-life, but he is a true defender of religious liberty. Judge Gorsuch has twice ruled in favor of faithful believers and against the Obama administration’s HHS mandate….This confirmation battle could determine how the Supreme Court rules on abortion, religious liberty, and other vital matters for decades to come.  There’s no way to overstate its importance.”

There was some initial dissent within the anti-choice movement about Gorsuch when, in December, a few anti-choice activists led by Phyllis Schlafly’s son Andrew signed a letter saying that Gorsuch and a handful of Trump’s other potential nominees had insufficiently “pro-life” records, but that seems to have largely been quashed. Operation Rescue’s Troy Newman, who signed the Schlafly letter, offered unqualified praise for Gorsuch last night:

“We want to express our thanks to President Trump for nominating a man of such stellar quality as Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court,” said Operation Rescue President Troy Newman. “One of the reasons I endorsed Trump for president was because of the strong promises he made to pro-life leaders. Now, after less than two weeks in office, he is keeping those promises, and we are very encouraged. He has proved himself to be a man of his word.”

In a fundraising email this morning, Newman declared that he “couldn’t ask for a better nominee,” saying that Gorsuch would help put the anti-choice movement “one step closer” to recriminalizing abortion:

The liberals realize that if Judge Gorsuch is confirmed, we’re one step closer to overturning Roe v. Wade and ending abortion in America for good. But if they can block him, the court will remain deadlocked and we’ll make no progress for the unborn.

A couple of anti-choice groups did continue to express some skepticism. Mark Harrington of the protest group Created Equal said that Gorsuch would need to be subjected to “extreme vetting” on his anti-choice views:

President Reagan gave us Justice Kennedy. George H.W. Bush gave us Justice Souter. George W. Bush gave us Justice Roberts. Gorsuch requires extreme vetting. We can’t get this one wrong. We have no margin of error. Getting it wrong condemns millions of preborn children to death. This time around, we will trust but verify.

Life Legal Defense Foundation, which has been representing Planned Parenthood foe David Daleiden, similarly took a wait-and-see approach:

“We are optimistic that our new President has appointed an originalist to the highest court,” said Life Legal Executive Director Alexandra Snyder. “There remains, however, some concern that Judge Gorsuch has never written or ruled on any important life issue cases. What we do know is that Judge Gorsuch has clearly stated that he does not believe the Court is to be used as a replacement for debate in the public square in formulating social policy,” Snyder added.

UPDATE: Priests for Life’s Alveda King hopes that Gorsuch and other Trump appointees “can solve America’s abortion crisis” and, through that, fix public schools, social security and “abortion related health problems”:

“Dear America, President Trump’s appointments can solve America’s abortion crisis. The connections are uncanny to say the least.

“For example, for the past eight years, The Supreme Court, Social Security, Failing Public Schools, tax issues, voter registration problems, and women’s health crisis have been connected to liberal abortion policies.

With millions of tax dollars lining the abortion industry’s coffers and nearly 60 million legal abortions in America to date, no wonder public schools are closing, social security is drying up, women are suffering from abortion related health problems, and on and on and on.

Tax funding of abortion providers depletes the human resources, the human contributions of America! It’s time to slay the beast!”