A Few Facts About SCOTUS Pick Neil Gorsuch’s Religion

By The Stream Published on January 31, 2017

Judge Neil Gorsuch has been nominated to fill Antonin Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court. Here are a few facts about his religious history and commitments, including positions important to religious conservatives.

1) Neil Gorsuch attended a Catholic school, the exclusive Georgetown Preparatory School, while his mother Anne served as head of the EPA under President Reagan. The school is run by the Jesuit order. He was student body president his senior year and graduated in 1985. The school makes a point of noting that it was founded the same year as the Supreme Court was established.

He studied at Oxford under the Catholic philosopher John Finnis. Finnis is one of the world’s leading Natural Law thinkers. One of Finnis’s other students, Princeton professor Robert P. George, wrote on his Facebook page that “Judge Gorsuch, whom I know well, is a faithful constitutionalist and extraordinarily well-qualified. President Trump could not have done better. Kudos to him.” Before the nomination, George had written, “He would be a superb Supreme Court justice. He is intellectually extremely gifted and is deeply committed to the (actual) Constitution and the rule of law. He will not manufacture ‘rights’ or read things into the Constitution that aren’t there or read things out of the Constitution that are.”

2) He’ll be the only Protestant on the court. He now attends St. John’s Episcopal Church in Boulder, Colorado, where his daughters served as acolytes. The church describes itself as “an inclusive, Christ-centered community reaching out to all who are seeking a deeper spirituality and relationship with God and one another.” It has a woman pastor.

3) He opposes the legalization of euthanasia, as he wrote in his book The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia. Princeton University Press published the book in 2009. Two of the nation’s leading Catholic bioethicists, Princeton’s Robert P. George and Georgetown’s John Keown, praised it.

However, as the Southern Baptist’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission noted, “during his confirmation hearing [for the Tenth Circuit] he said he would follow the law rather than personal convictions, and that in his writings he has largely defended existing precedent in these areas.” As one constitutional scholar described Gorsuch’s views:

[He] believes that “any State’s decision to legalize assisted suicide would likely bring with it both benefits and some attendant costs, and, accordingly, the legalization question presents a difficult moral and legal choice.” … In his book, Gorsuch elaborates on these ideas, proposing as a guiding principle the intrinsic value of human life and arguing that “to act intentionally against life is to suggest that its value rests only on its transient instrumental usefulness for other ends.” He suggests a standard that would leave room for patient autonomy while not allowing intentional killing.

4) Gorsuch is taken to be an opponent of abortion, though he’s never written a court decision on the matter. He wrote in his book that “All human beings are intrinsically valuable and the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong.” Also, “To act intentionally against life is to suggest that its value rests only on its transient instrumental usefulness for other ends.” And also:

It is simply not acceptable when we are deciding who is and is not treated as fully human…. It is incompatible with the promise of equal justice under law that any of us should feel at liberty to sit in judgement to decide who is and who is not entitled to the benefits of that promise.

In a footnote to the book, he argued that “Abortion would be ruled out by the inviolability-of-life principle I intend to set forth.” He noted that this depended on another belief. It would be true “if, and only if, a fetus is considered a human life. The Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade, however, unequivocally held that a fetus is not a ‘person’ for purposes of constitutional law.” Observers believe he would find that the fetus is a person.

His one judicial encounter with the issue came in Planned Parenthood of Utah v. Herbert. “Last October,” writes constitutional expert Ed Whelan of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Gorsuch “dissented strenuously” when the court left standing a order keeping funds going to Planned Parenthood and over-rode the governor’s directive. “Gorsuch faulted the panel for failing to accord the appropriate degree of deference to the district court’s factual findings and for making its own bizarre inferences about the governor’s reasons for acting.”

A negative testimony to his position is NARAL’s reaction. The formerly named National Abortion Rights Action League tweeted, “We will fight hard, we will fight back, and we will #RESIST Neil Gorsuch & Trump’s extreme #antichoice agenda! #StopGorsuch”.

5) He’s an advocate of religious freedom and tolerance. He wrote in his book that “The law … doesn’t just apply to protect popular religious beliefs: it does perhaps its most important work in protecting unpopular religious beliefs, vindicating this nation’s long-held aspiration to serve as a refuge of religious tolerance.”

Gorsuch has “an especially strong record” on this subject, writes Whelan. In 2013, Gorsuch supported Hobby Lobby against the Obamacare mandate to provide conception, a decision upheld by the Supreme Court. Two years later, he supported the Little Sisters of the Poor, an organization of Catholic nuns, against similar requirements.

He “has also written or joined opinions — again, largely vindicated by the Supreme Court — that have criticized doctrines that limit religious expression in public spaces,” writes another legal scholar, Eric Citron, on the SCOTUSblog.

The common thread in these cases is one that matters very deeply to conservatives: a sense that the government can permit public displays of religion – and can accommodate deeply held religious views – without either violating the religion clauses of the Constitution or destroying the effectiveness of government programs that occasionally run into religious objections. In his 2009 concurrence in Pleasant Grove City, Utah v. Summum, Scalia articulated very similar views.

6) Gorsuch is intellectually independent. He’s willing “to rethink constitutional principles from the ground up,” says Jeffrey Rosen of the National Constitution Center, quoted by Politico. “Like Justice Scalia, he sometimes reaches results that favor liberals when he thinks the history or text of the Constitution or the law require it, especially in areas like criminal law or the rights of religious minorities, but unlike Scalia he’s less willing to defer to regulations and might be more willing to second-guess Trump’s regulatory decision.”

7) He loves his wife Louise and two daughters, Emma and Belinda. He dedicated his book to them with the words “Finally, and borrowing in part from P.G. Wodehouse, I thank my wife, Louise, and my daughters, Emma and Belinda, without whose constant love and attention this book would’ve been finished in half the time — but without whom life wouldn’t been half as fully lived.”

 

Correction: “Boulder City” was corrected to “Boulder.”

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  • Lori

    Just a small correction needs to be made. His church is in Boulder, CO. There is no Boulder City in Colorado – only in Nevada.

  • Gary

    Though he is not a Christian, he still might be a good judge. He appears to believe that judges should not be legislators, which would put him at odds with liberals.

    • carole

      Where did you read he was not a Christian. He does belong to the Christian faith. Let’s just hope he favors Separation of Church and State. He does have a very good educational background so let’s hope he sticks to the Constitution and not to Trump’s insane agendas.

      • Tom Rath

        He didn’t read it, he declared it. Gary decides who is and isn’t Christian. (Hint: Catholics need not apply.)

        • carole

          Well, I declare. That isn’t very “Christian” of Gary.

        • Gary

          It isn’t always easy to know who is a Christian, but its usually pretty easy to know who isn’t. The New Testament gives good guidelines on it.

      • Gary

        His biography reveals he isn’t a Christian. If he were a Christian, he would be attending a church that follows the Bible.

      • Paul

        There is no Constitutional separation of church and state. The Constitution only limits what govt does. 1st Amendment reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;…”

        You know what isn’t there? You won’t find the words separation nor church. That phrase just doesn’t exist in the Constitution.

  • Paul

    He’s intelligent so there’s no denying he chooses to participate in a church that endorses homosexuality and is politically active in undermining the 2nd amendment to the Constitution.

    • ymhayuociotlc .

      I doubt what you’re saying is true, Ben Shapiro liked him. Shapiro is a smart guy, no way he would like someone like that.

      • Paul

        The above article mentions his church, St. John’s Episcopal Church in Boulder. I’d provide a link here but that isn’t allowed, but there is a link in the above story using the tag ‘describes itself’. Once there scroll down and find the article called “Help Colorado Stay Gun Safe: Join our Rapid Response Network” that describes their anti gun political activities.

        As for being pro homosexuality, that’s the stance of that entire Episcopal denomination and if you google the church name with the word homosexual you will find it is listed on homosexual websites as being welcoming.

        Maybe Shapiro needs to do a little homework.

    • Gary

      His choice of a “church” proves he isn’t a Christian. That is bad. Both for him, and potentially for the country. It indicates that his views about morality are not good. But, the SC is not a church. If he understands the role of a SC judge, and will limit himself to that role, then he might be ok.

      • Paul

        Yes that denomination is lost, and yet this intelligent thoughtful man continues to participate. It’s important we don’t delude ourselves about this aspect of him and gloss it over.

        I mentioned in the other articles comments how he is deemed an originalist but has already a revised understanding of the 2nd amendment in his own words.

        If this is the best we can do then it’s a sad state of affairs.

        • Gary

          You could be right. There are warning signs about Gorsuch: his educational background, who he has clerked for, and his religious beliefs being some of them.

          • Natalie39

            Funny, I originally thought Gorsuch was a very bad choice without learning a little about him. I have possibly changed my mind and I am a died in the wool liberal. From some of the descriptions I am rethinking my opinion of Judge Gorsuch. Religion at best is myth and at worst makes indictments on the ascribed essence of a human being that can be hurtful and propel one to even suicide. The Bible as literal is STUCK in a world of 5000 old dogma, scientifically proven false. Science is NOT stuck. It changes as knowledge changes. As to homosexuality there was no understanding whatsoever 5000 years ago that one’s sexuality as a human being is multidimensional. There were no courses in human sexuality. If one wants to look at the animal kingdom as a tabula raza free of sexual prejudices homosexuality is found in all species for all time. 5000 years ago there was no understanding of genetics nor of the genetic and hormonal proclivity for one’s sexual orientation. Things change, science changes them and we as the smartest species on earth MUST adapt or fail.

          • Paul

            There’s nothing smart about homosexuality, frankly it’s outright confusion and stupidity on full display.

          • carole

            Do you know nothing about genetics and DNA?

          • Paul

            Yup, people have either XX or XY. It results in male or female people with the biological parts for mating with the opposite sex. We used to learn about it in sex ed in school, now they confuse kids with nonsense about choosing your identity. But it all makes sense considering homosexuals can’t reproduce so they must recruit.

          • carole

            This had me fall off the chair laughing. Homosexuals don’t recruit and they don’t reproduce. Homosexuals come from straight people reproducing. OMG Go back to school. Kids are not asked to choose their identity. They are what they are. Doh!! Still laughing at you, Paul. OMG LMAO

          • Paul

            homosexual activity is a choice.

          • carole

            My time with you is done. I don’t like to argue with the mentally handicapped. There is even homosexuality in the animal kingdom. Wonder how they made their choices. It has been proven that homosexuality is NOT a choice. Go back to school, Paul, and stop wasting my time. I won’t respond to you any longer.

          • Paul

            if you do return please bring some facts.

          • Tom Rath

            Here’s a fact:

            You stated “people have either XX or XY”.

            It is a FACT that this does not hold true for all people.

          • Paul

            Yes, in those rare cases it is considered a genetic disease. Things like Klinefelter or fragile X. Are you arguing homosexuality is a genetic disease?

          • Gary

            All sexual behavior is a choice. And, if you want to act like an animal, don’t be surprised if you are treated like one.

          • Gary

            You have already failed. What you think is true is not true. And what you think is false is true. You got all of it wrong.

          • carole

            Do you have a direct line to God? I recognize your choice to believe that the Bible is inerrant truth. But I believe the Old and New Testaments were inspired by humans and men of their time. They were meant to be metaphor, story, historical reference and questions and guide. You would believe anything, Gary. So be it. But do not criticize those who choose not to be so easily mind-controlled like you are.

          • Gary

            Most people are not Christians, so you are in the majority.

      • carole

        And just what, in your ignorant judgmental mind, defines who is or isn’t a “Christian?” It’s intolerant people like you that ruin America. You only like white people who go to your church? Supporter of KKK and neo-Nazism, Gary? We certainly know where your vote went. Don’t believe in pro-choice either, Gary? Nor equal pay? I’ll bet you have homosexual people in your church and sitting right next to you…maybe even touching you. People like you disgust me. Hate Jew, Muslims and Blacks too, Gary?

        • Gary

          A Christian is someone who believes the Bible and accepts that God is the moral rule maker, and agrees that, according to the Bible, God has condemned homosexuals (lgbtq). All real Christians believe those things. From your post, it is clear that you don’t believe those things.

  • Jimmy Chonga

    Regardless of who he is, pray for him. Our country-men can’t let just the leaders do the heavy lifting.

  • Tom Rath

    I don’t care if he’s a Pastafarian who’s only observant during Olive Garden AYCE promotions. It’s all about the forever secular US Constitution, baby.

    • Paul

      Now that’s some revisionism.

  • m-nj

    ugh… all i needed to read was he attends “St. John’s Episcopal Church … It has a woman pastor.” to know where is theology stands. but as others stated, as long as he tows the line of Constitutional originalism, and not revisionism, then God bless him and the USA!

  • alfie0077

    Episcopalians are wannabe Catholic traitors.

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