Faith Facts About SCOTUS Nominee Neil Gorsuch: He Attends a Pretty Liberal Church and Would Be the First Protestant on the Court Since 2010

President Trump announces 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Neil Gorsuch as his choice for Supreme Court Justice. Gorsuch was joined by his wife Louise Gorsuch in the East Room of the White House on Tuesday. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
President Trump announces 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Neil Gorsuch as his choice for Supreme Court Justice. Gorsuch was joined by his wife Louise Gorsuch in the East Room of the White House on Tuesday. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

The day after Donald Trump was elected president, the Rev. Susan Springer wrote to her congregation that they should strive to behave as Godly people who spread hope even though “the world is clasping its head in its hands and crying out in fear.”

That Sunday, one of the ushers at Springer’s church was Neil Gorsuch — soon to become President Trump’s nominee for the open spot on the Supreme Court.

Gorsuch has staked his own conservative positions on numerous issues, including topics of religious concern: In cases involving the art supply chain Hobby Lobby and the Catholic order Little Sisters of the Poor, both of which eventually reached the Supreme Court, Gorsuch ruled in favor of religious conservatives who said the Affordable Care Act infringed on their religious freedom to not pay for contraception.

But at church, he often hears a more liberal point of view.

He belongs to St. John’s Episcopal Church in Boulder, Colo., the Episcopal diocese of Colorado confirmed on Wednesday. Church bulletins show that the judge has been an usher three times in recent months. His wife Louise frequently leads the intercessory prayer and reads the weekly Scripture at Sunday services, and his daughters assist in ceremonial duties during church services as acolytes.

If he joins the Supreme Court, Gorsuch as an Episcopalian would be the first Protestant member since 2010. Five current members are Catholic and three are Jewish, and the late Justice Antonin Scalia was Catholic as well.

The last time a Protestant was appointed was in 1990, when President George H. W. Bush picked David Souter — also an Episcopalian. The shift in the Court’s religious makeup over the past quarter-century has been widely noted; for most of the country’s history, it was an entirely or predominantly Protestant body, just like the presidency and the U.S. Congress.

Religious groups of varying political persuasions expressed their opinions of Gorsuch’s nomination on Tuesday and Wednesday. Liberal faith groups and nontheistic groups including the Union for Reform Judaism, the Secular Coalition for America and the Freedom from Religion Foundation voiced strong concerns. Many evangelical Christians — who spoke frequently when they voted for Trump of their hopes for a conservative justice who would overturn the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion — met the news of Gorsuch’s nomination with glee.

And some started reading the tea leaves to see what they could glean about Gorsuch’s own faith. The Episcopal Church has embraced more liberal positions on a variety of issues, including performing same-sex commitment ceremonies since the 1980s and eventually same-sex marriages. Many parishes have broken away, joining different Anglican denominations instead, over the issue of homosexuality.

But this large mainline Protestant denomination includes great political diversity among its 2 million members, and the level of political activism varies widely from one parish to the next.

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SOURCE: The Washington Post
Julie Zauzmer

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