Washington D.C., Mar 24, 2017 / 11:06 am
Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch received a strong voice of support Thursday from a lawyer at a major religious liberty firm, who said that he shows a record of consensus building and protecting religious freedom for all.
In addition to ruling on some high profile cases, Gorsuch also defended the religious freedom of religious minorities and prisoners, “some of the most politically powerless in our society,” said Hannah Smith, senior counsel with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.
Smith testified about Gorsuch before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. Gorsuch sits on the Tenth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was nominated by President Donald Trump in February to be an associate justice at the U.S. Supreme Court.
In her testimony, Smith pointed to Gorsuch’s ruling in favor of a Native American inmate’s request to have access to a sweat house at his prison, for religious use.
Gorsuch wrote in that Yellowbear case, “While those convicted of crime in our society lawfully forfeit a great many civil liberties, Congress has (repeatedly) instructed that the sincere exercise of religion should not be among them – at least in the absence of a compelling reason. In this record we can find no reason like that.”
He also was “a remarkable consensus-builder,” Smith added, “in an area of jurisprudence that can be quite contentious.”
Smith said she studied 40 religious freedom cases where Gorsuch, appointed to the Tenth Circuit by President George W. Bush, either wrote an opinion or took a position. She found that “judges appointed by a Democratic president agreed with him in 80 percent of those cases.”
Where Gorsuch authored an opinion in a religious freedom case, she added, he “produced a unanimous decision every single time.”