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‘Evangelicals are Ecstatic’: Reactions to Supreme Court Nominee Neil Gorsuch

  • Emily McFarlan Miller Religion News Service
  • Updated Feb 02, 2017
‘Evangelicals are Ecstatic’: Reactions to Supreme Court Nominee Neil Gorsuch

President Donald Trump had promised last week evangelical Christians would “love” his nominee for the Supreme Court.

And in fact, said evangelical author and president of The Kairos Co. Johnnie Moore, a member of Trump’s evangelical advisory board, “Evangelicals are ecstatic.”

On Tuesday night (Jan. 31), Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch to fill the open seat on the Supreme Court left by the unexpected death of Justice Antonin Scalia nearly a year ago.

Leading up to the presidential election, evangelical Christians such as the Rev. Franklin Graham had made clear they believed the most important factor in choosing a president was the type of Supreme Court justices he or she would appoint. Some pointed to the list of possible justices to fill Scalia’s seat that Trump had released during the campaign in their reactions to Gorsuch’s nomination as something that had swayed evangelical support.

On Tuesday, many evangelicals likened Gorsuch to Scalia, a conservative and originalist who often spoke of his Catholic faith.

As a child Gorsuch went to Catholic school, but he now attends an Episcopal church. The court hasn’t had a Protestant on the bench since John Paul Stevens retired in 2010. Currently, five of the justices are Catholics and three are Jewish.

According to a 2013 PRRI poll, 81 percent of Americans think Supreme Court justices are influenced to some degree by their religious beliefs.

Not all religious leaders are as enthusiastic about the nomination of Gorsuch as evangelicals are. Here’s a selection of reactions from across the religious landscape.

Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention

“Judge Neil Gorsuch … is a brilliant and articulate defender of Constitutional originalism in the mold of the man he will replace: Justice Antonin Scalia. … His career is one that exemplifies the very best of intellectually robust conservatism, judicial restraint and faithfulness to the Constitution.”

The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference

“I commend President Donald J. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence for selecting a judge with such a commendable track record on issues important to the Evangelical community.”  

The Rev. Katharine R. Henderson, president of Auburn Seminary

“As a faith leader, my conscience demands that I speak out against this nomination and urge other faith leaders to rise up in opposition to Gorsuch’s confirmation. We challenge President Trump to appoint judges and justices who have the moral courage to uphold the rights of all — even the least among us.”

Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family

“As a family ministry concerned with the sanctity of life, marriage, and religious freedom, we are optimistic that Judge Gorsuch will continue to protect our cherished liberties, and earn the entire country’s respect as a member of our nation’s highest court.”

Ronnie Floyd, senior pastor of Cross Church and former president of the Southern Baptist Convention

“My prayers are wholeheartedly for Judge Gorsuch. May he, if confirmed, lead a long and successful career as a Supreme Court Justice, upholding our Constitution with firmness and righteousness.”

The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United

“Our nation needs a Supreme Court justice who respects real religious freedom and appreciates the role church-state separation plays in protecting the rights of all Americans, religious and non-religious. Gorsuch is not likely to be that justice. The Senate should reject his nomination.”

Nathan Diament, executive director for public policy for the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America

“While there is more of Judge Gorsuch’s record to be reviewed, we are very encouraged by his record in religious liberty cases – the area of Constitutional law of paramount concern to the Orthodox Jewish community.”

David Jeremiah, senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church and host of Turning Point

“For many Evangelicals, Trump’s campaign promise to appoint a Supreme Court Justice in the mold of Antonin Scalia — an originalist who would uphold the Constitution — was the single most important issue facing the American people this past election. I am greatly encouraged by the nomination of Judge Gorsuch as he represents a clear and definitive fulfillment of President Trump’s promise.”

Larry T. Decker, executive director of the Secular Coalition for America

“The nomination of Judge Gorsuch by President Trump signals a clear intent by the Administration to shape the nation’s highest court in an ideological fashion that threatens religious liberty and pushes an agenda at odds with the majority of Americans.”

Greg Laurie, senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship

“Should he be confirmed, I would urge Judge Gorsuch to speak up for the rights of all those who are oppressed and marginalized, including the lives of the unborn.”

Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice

“Judge Gorsuch is a remarkably qualified nominee with a conservative judicial philosophy and a commitment to uphold the rule of law and the Constitution.”

Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

“We are greatly troubled by Judge Gorsuch’s record, which suggests that he may not have the attributes and values a nominee to the Supreme Court ought to have in order to mete out justice and interpret the laws that affect us all.”

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council

“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.”

James Dobson, psychologist and founder and president of Family Talk

“I thank God that if confirmed, this administration will have delivered on one of its most critical campaign promises — to appoint a judge in the mold of the late Justice Antonin Scalia who will uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States and the original intent of its framers.”

Rabbi Jack Moline, president of the Interfaith Alliance

“Religious freedom is not a license to discriminate. Unfortunately, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch seems to believe otherwise. As a federal judge he ruled on two of the most consequential religious freedom cases in recent years, and both times he opposed genuine religious freedom. Instead, he empowered groups seeking to force their religious beliefs onto others.”

Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition

“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 Antonio Scalia.”

Nicholas Little, vice president and general counsel for Center for Inquiry

“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.”

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

“Judge Gorsuch is committed to the same respectful approach to the US Constitution that was the hallmark of the late Justice Antonin Scalia. This nomination is right for the Court and right for the times.”

Rabbi Jason Kimelman-Block, director of Bend the Arc Jewish Action

“Throughout his judicial career, (Gorsuch) has demonstrated hostility toward victims of police brutality and toward women’s right to access reproductive health care. His history of anti-worker rulings and his decisions against attempts to protect the environment are also profoundly troubling and raise serious questions about his ability to rule fairly on our highest court. All of these positions contradict both fundamental American and Jewish values.”


Courtesy: Religion News Service

Photo: U.S. President Donald Trump and Neil Gorsuch, left, smile as Trump nominates Gorsuch to be an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 31, 2017.

Photo courtesy: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

Publication date: February 2, 2017