Trump's Supreme Court Pick: Religious Freedom Defender Neil Gorsuch

"Scholarly Denver judge who ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby would fill Scalia's seat as the court's only Protestant." CToday

​Related: Trump's Supreme Court Pick: Neil Gorsuch, also A Supreme Successor to Justice Scalia

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Barry L.'s picture

This is the biggest reason why some of us held our nose and voted for him.

Bert Perry's picture

It's worth noting that the bane of the court today is the doctrine of stare decisis, or "let the decision stand".  In other words, it takes a LOT for the court to reverse bad precedent.  This has parallels in the Talmuds of Judiasm--essentially commmentary on the Torah--as well as in the Magisterium of Catholicism.  All eight Justices currently are either Jewish or Catholic--at least nominally.  

So while Gorsuch's Episcopal faith is not perfect--especially being a member of a church in Boulder no less--a hint of Bible-believing Protestantism could be a welcome breath of fresh air for the Court.  

Side note 1: I used to live in Boulder, but can't speak to the Episcopal churches the culture they were more or less invisible, and I can't say what that means about their theology.  Gorsuch looks good, though. 

Side note 2: the example of Scalia does show that Catholics can be reasonably responsible in their handling of precedent, of course.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

WallyMorris's picture

I wouldn't call stare decisis the "bane of the court". Precedent has value in helping to maintain consistency and predictability, to some extent. Precedent helps people know that the law won't change unless a good reason exists for that law to change. Bad decisions make bad precedent, good decisions make good precedent. The problem is not the principle of stare decisis. The problem is bad law.

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN

Joeb's picture

Bert in Pa the Philadelphia Bishop Benton was a flaming Liberal in every way possible.  Marrying gays and protecting his brother a youth Pastor who raped a girl.  He was such an arse his fellow Liberals wanted to get rid of him.  When the Few Evangelical Parishes refused his visits he went after them and tried to take their properties.  

Now in comparison the Bishop in Western Pa was an evangelical conservative and most of the parishes on western Pa preached the gospel.  Hence Bert there is some conservative Evangelical Episcopal churches that preach the gospel. So Goruch could be a beliver similar to Rubio but may get good teaching at his church.  

From what I heard though he won't buy into reversing gay marriage.   I think with Trump in charge he is not going to pick some one to reverse that decision. 

One out of two is better than nothing. 

Aaron Blumer's picture


Although courts seldom overrule precedent, Justice Rehnquist explained that stare decisis is not an “inexorable command.” On occasion, the Court will decide not to apply the doctrine if a prior decision is deemed unworkable. In addition, significant societal changes may also prompt the Court to overrule precedent; however, any decision to overrule precedent is exercised cautiously.

Well researched source...

Our interest lies with understanding the quintessential institutional rule in the American judiciary—stare decisis. This informal norm directs judges to follow legal rulings from prior cases that are factually similar to ones being decided.1 It is the defining feature of American courts, and lawyers, judges, and scholars recognize it represents the most critical piece of American judicial infrastructure (Knight and Epstein 1996a; Powell 1990; Schauer 1987). Additionally, the transfer of the common law framework from England to the United States, and the role stare decisis plays within it, is the “central theme of early American legal history” (Flaherty 1969, 5).

I don't think it has much to do with any particular religion. And though I'm not for giving it excessive weight, it's indispensable to judicial stability, ceteris parabus.


Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

WallyMorris's picture

I find it fascinating that today's legal interpretation centers on "the text" - What does the law say?

Very similar to good Biblical interpretation - What does the text say?

That's why I like Bibleworks' theme/slogan: "Focus On The Text".

Also: Look at this Supreme Court blogsite for info about the Court:

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN

Bert Perry's picture

Agreed that it depends all on good vs. bad decisions; the trick is that a strong view of stare decisis will tend to result in retaining bad decisions more often.  It's a matter of mindset, philosophy, and even perhaps personality.

To use the example Aaron mentions, William Rehnquist was a consistent opponent of the over-application of the doctrine, and....while he doesn't appear to have been a strongly pious man, he was a Lutheran who would have had a significant application of Sola Scriptura.  The hypothesis I offer is that those who come from a strongly traditionalistic religious background like Catholicism will tend to honor tradition and precedent more than those who do not.  Hence, a Catholic or Jew (even nonobservant) will simply have the mental tendency to honor precedent more than a Protestant will, all else the same.

In a world where an aberrant doctrine--say the "penumbra of privacy" that animated Griswold v. Conn before giving us Roe v. Wade, Romer v. Evans, and Lawrence v. Texas--it can be really important that someone is philosophically and temperamentally prepared to stand against bad law and overrule precedent.  Rehnquist, for example, did oppose the final three decisions. 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.