Jun 27, 2018

Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s retirement comes at a time when the high court is sharply divided over separation of church and state, and his replacement could shift the balance for a generation, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

“We’re at a pivotal moment,” said Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United. "The separation of church and state is the only way to ensure religious freedom for all Americans. This principle could not be more vital, given that Americans belong to hundreds of different faiths, and many are non-religious. Yet all signs indicate that President Donald Trump will appoint a justice who will undermine this foundational American value.”

Americans United noted that Kennedy’s record on separation of church and state was mixed. He strongly opposed subjecting children to religious coercion in public schools and was a powerful defender of LGBTQ rights, including recently recognizing that religion cannot be used to justify discrimination. But he also saw little problem with government steering tax dollars to religious schools and adopted the view that corporations like Hobby Lobby should be able to deny employees access to birth control in health care plans on religious grounds.

Laser noted that before Trump named Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, he assured his conservative evangelical base that they would “love” his choice. Laser said this time Trump must appoint a justice whom all Americans can support. 

“With so much at stake, we need a justice for all, not for only some,” Laser said. 

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.