Sep 18, 2020

In response to the death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Americans United for Separation of Church and State President and CEO Rachel Laser issued the following statement:

“As the only organization solely dedicated to protecting the Constitutional principle of separation of church and state, we at Americans United esteem and honor Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s lifelong dedication to real religious freedom, and her influence on many key Supreme Court decisions on this issue in her long service to the court and the American people.

“Justice Ginsburg understood that the Constitution established religious freedom as a shield to protect us, not a sword to harm others. Or, as she quoted in one opinion, ‘[y]our right to swing your arms ends just where the other man’s nose begins.’ Time and again, she defended every American’s right to practice any faith, or no faith at all, without harming others. As she explained while quoting Thomas Jefferson, the framers of the First Amendment sought to ‘buil[d] a wall of separation between church and state’ because, she explained, ‘while the union of government and religion tends to destroy government and to degrade religion, separating the two preserves the legitimacy of each.’  

“On a court that in recent years has chipped away at religious freedom, granting religious privilege to those who would use their faith to discriminate, to exclude or to deny equality, Justice Ginsburg’s voice on behalf of one of America’s most important founding principles – and the vulnerable people it protects – was stalwart and clear. She consistently joined the opinion most protective of the separation of religion and government in virtually every case during her long tenure.

“If she is replaced by a Trump-nominated justice with opposing views, we could face a disastrous erosion of the separation of religion and government. It is particularly sad that a Jewish justice who stood for religious freedom for everyone, including religious minorities, died on the eve of the Jewish New Year.  As is said in her faith, may her memory be for a blessing.” 

Americans United is a religious freedom advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, AU educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom. Learn more at www.au.org.