Americans United for Separation of Church and State today expressed strong concern over President George W. Bush’s nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.
Alito, a judge on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals since 1990, is a favorite of Religious Right leaders who have pressured Bush to select a high court nominee who meets their litmus tests on constitutional issues.
“I am deeply troubled by this nomination,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “In several decisions, Judge Alito seems to be arguing for a closer relationship between church and state.”
Lynn noted that research by Americans United’s Legal Department uncovered two cases dealing with government-sanctioned display of religious symbols, with Alito upholding the religious displays both times. In another case, Alito ruled that a public school was required to post flyers and distribute materials for a fundamentalist Christian group on the same basis as secular community groups.
Lynn noted that Religious Right groups are celebrating the Alito nomination and that many have compared him to Justice Antonin Scalia, an acerbic opponent of church-state separation.
“The country deserves a Supreme Court justice who will protect the rights of all Americans, not kowtow to the demands of the Religious Right,” Lynn said.
The AU Legal Department, Lynn said, will continue to research Alito’s record. Aside from court rulings, AU attorneys will look for non-judicial writings, such as public speeches and articles, to flesh out his judicial philosophy.
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.