Christian groups are applauding President George W. Bush’s nomination of Judge Samuel A. Alito, Jr. to the U.S. Supreme Court.
He was nominated Monday to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. If confirmed, Alito would be the fifth Catholic justice on the Supreme Court, joining Chief Justice John Roberts and associate justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Anthony Kennedy.
"Judge Alito's qualifications are outstanding," said Samuel Casey, executive director of the Christian Legal Society. "Judge Alito has participated in hundreds of appeals and authored scores of opinions in his 15 years on the Third Circuit. Like Chief Justice Roberts, Judge Alito was a respected appellate advocate before he went on the bench, arguing 12 cases before the Supreme Court and numerous appeals in the lower federal courts.”
Gregory Baylor, director of Christian Legal Society's Center for Law & Religious Freedom, lauded Alito for his correct interpretation and application of the First Amendment's religion clauses. "Judge Alito appears to understand that the Constitution protects the religious exercise rights of all Americans," said Baylor.
Baylor cited three cases—Blackhawk v. Pennsylvania, Fraternal Order of Police v. City of Newark, and Abramson v. William Paterson College—in which Alito ruled in favor of religious rights. The cases dealt with three different faiths: Native Indian, Islam and Judaism.
Alito’s decisions and his rejection of ACLU's efforts to dismantle holiday displays that included Christmas trees, menorahs, nativity scenes and Kwanzaa symbols also show that he “rejects the idea that the First Amendment's Establishment Clause requires the removal of all things religious from the public square," said Baylor.
Supreme Knight Carl Anderson has described the nomination as "a truly excellent choice."
"Judge Alito is a man of exceptional background and experience," Anderson said. "His 15 years as a judge on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, together with his service as the top federal prosecutor in New Jersey and as a Justice Department lawyer arguing cases before the U.S. Supreme Court make him one of the most qualified persons ever nominated for our highest court.”
Anderson commended Alito on his decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, calling it “a model of well-reasoned jurisprudence.” It was cited by Chief Justice Rehnquist when the case reached the Supreme Court, Anderson noted.
"The Senate Judiciary Committee should give him prompt and expeditious consideration, followed by a timely up-or-down vote on the floor of the Senate. Given his long service as an appeals judge, and the fact that his views and written opinions are voluminous and well known, there is no excuse for delay or obstruction," Anderson concluded.
Catholic League president William Donohue said the nomination unites Catholics, evangelical Protestants and Orthodox Jews. “Whatever theological differences they have pale in significance compared to their joint interest in religious liberty,” he said.
He observed that some groups have already issued notices urging citizens to call their senators to oppose Alito. “It is precisely because Alito is a voice of moderation that the secular left is opposed to him,” said Donohue.
In addition, some are already commenting that if Alito is confirmed he would be the fifth Catholic on the Supreme Court, he noted.
“So what?” Donohue said. “Currently, Jews comprise 22 percent of the Justices, even though they are only 1 percent of the population. Is that a problem?”