November 2018 Church & State | People & Events

Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s choice to replace Justice Anthony M. Kennedy on the Sup­reme Court, won confirmation in a close vote Oct. 6.

Kavanaugh’s nomination process was delayed after Christine Blasey Ford, a California university professor, alleged that he had sexually assaulted her at a summer party in 1982, when she was 15 and Kavanaugh was 17 and both were living in Maryland.

The Senate held an additional hearing to question both Ford and Kavanaugh and asked the FBI to look into the matter.  But the FBI was given less than a week to perform the investigation, which was widely condemned as perfunctory.

The Senate voted 50-48 to confirm Kavanaugh. Americans United opposed his nomination from the outset because of his extreme views on separation of church and state. For instance, he lauded the views of the late Chief Justice William H. Rehn­quist, who once called the met­a­phor of the wall of separation between church and state “useless” and said it should be “frankly and explicitly abandoned.” In a 2017 speech, Kavanaugh praised Rehnquist for his church-state views and saluted him for advocating for a new understanding of how religion and government should interact.

Research by Americans United indicates that Kavanaugh will likely support taxpayer aid to religious institutions, seek to introduce more coercive forms of religion in public schools and allow discrimination against women and members of the LGBTQ community on religious grounds.

Brett Kavanaugh testifying before Senate Judiciary Committee

(Photo: Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Credit: Screenshot from C-SPAN.)

Following the Senate vote, Rachel Laser, Americans United’s president and CEO, issued the following statement:

“Brett Kavanaugh has shown himself to be unworthy of a seat on the Supreme Court, and today’s vote in the Senate is a stain on that institution. Rather than a full and fair hearing that would have examined Kavanaugh’s record and the serious charges against him, the country saw a rushed, perfunctory process that had all the hallmarks of a sham.

“Kavanaugh’s views alone disqualified him from the Supreme Court, particularly his opposition to the separation of religion and government. His record as a judge of allowing people to use ‘religious freedom’ to discriminate is especially ominous in light of the Religious Right’s movement, empowered and emboldened by this administration, to misuse this core American principle to advance a regressive political agenda.

“As if his troubling stances were not enough, the Senate’s failure to adequately address the serious allegations of Kavanaugh’s sexual misconduct is enraging. Survivors deserve better than that. Women deserve better than that. This country deserves better than that.

“We are thankful for the millions of people, including our own relentless members, who spoke out against his nomination. No matter what, we will continue to fight for our foundational principles and will not be deterred in preserving real religious freedom for all Americans. Today’s vote only makes our work all the more important.

“Through this painful process, the country has been reminded of the importance of our courts and the political branches that choose judges. With an important election a month away, we must not lose sight of understanding that who represents us matters deeply.”

Shortly before the Senate vote, Trump mocked Ford during a speech in Mississippi and implied that her claim had been part of a partisan plot to derail Kavanaugh’s nomination.

Kavanaugh struck a conciliatory tone during a White House event marking his swearing in, but Trump again went on the attack, asserting, “Those who step forward to serve our nation deserve a fair and dignified evaluation, not a campaign of personal and political destruction based on lies and deception. What happened to the Kavanaugh family violates every notion of fairness, decency and due process. [In] our country, a man or a woman must always be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.”

Trump also asserted that Kavanaugh had been found innocent of the assault charges lodged against him. In fact, the Senate made no such determination.