Nov 28, 2018

Prominent faith leaders today joined advocacy organization Americans United for Separation of Church and State to shed needed light on Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker’s outrageous views that would require federal judges to have a “biblical” worldview.

After weeks of organizations and elected officials from both sides of the political spectrum urging the removal of Whitaker for myriad reasons, the faith community is highlighting another reason the Trump administration’s chief lawyer is unfit to hold that office.

In 2014, as a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, Whitaker said he would only support federal judges who have a biblical view -- and specifically a New Testament view -- of justice:

“If they have a secular worldview, then I’m going to be very concerned about how they judge. ... Natural law often times is used from the eye of the beholder and what I would like to see -- I’d like to see things like their worldview, what informs them. Are they people of faith? Do they have a biblical view of justice? ... And what I know is as long as they have that worldview, that they’ll be a good judge. And if they have a secular worldview, where this is all we have here on Earth, then I’m going to be very concerned about that judge.”

The following faith leaders and Americans United say that view is incompatible with American values and the core principle of church-state separation:

Rachel Laser, President and CEO, Americans United for Separation of Church and State

“Matt Whitaker’s views violate the U.S. Constitution – both the First Amendment, which promises religious freedom for all, including our judges, as well as Article VI, which promises that no government officials be subjected to a religious test. The Attorney General of the United States is sworn to uphold the Constitution, but Whitaker clearly is not up to the task. As a Jewish woman, an attorney and an advocate for church-state separation, I cannot trust that Whitaker would protect our fundamental rights.”   

Jim Winkler, President and General Secretary, National Council of Churches

“The problem is not just that Acting Attorney General Whitaker’s opinion that federal judges must have a ‘biblical view of justice’ is contrary to how our system of justice operates, it is that such extremely dangerous views are held by the highest law enforcement officer in the land. We simply cannot have an attorney general who will not protect the separation of church and state.”

Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, Executive Director, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice

“I was taught in law school that we are a nation of laws, and judges are supposed to apply the laws to the facts. Regardless of religious beliefs, each judge looks to the same set of principles outlined in the Constitution and the laws of our land. That Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker thinks there is another frame of reference undermines the entire rule of law and proves that he is not fit to serve. The Acting Attorney General can believe anything he wants privately, but where we meet is in the Constitution and duly passed laws."

Pastor Derrick Harkins, D.Min, Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York “The entire faith community should be alarmed that one of the strongest protections of religious freedom – the prohibition of religious tests for federal offices – is being called into question. As a Baptist, I have a deep connection to the historic commitment people of faith had in securing this protection for all. The Founders made it crystal clear, the separation of church and state is critical to the strength of our democracy. Anyone charged with upholding the Constitution and carrying out the rule of law in our country, especially our Acting Attorney General, should be committed to this core American value.”

John Dorhauer, General Minister and President, United Church of Christ

“The United Church of Christ has a long history of supporting religious liberty and interfaith understanding. Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker’s views promote neither. His pronouncement that only those with a biblical worldview steeped in the Christian Scripture should be federal judges unfairly and unconstitutionally disqualifies a multitude of candidates from diverse backgrounds.”