Americans United Calls On President Bush And Senate To Protect Religous Liberty At The Supreme Court

Replacement For Chief Justice Rehnquist Must Respect Church-State Separation, Watchdog Group Says

Americans United for Separation of Church and State today called on President George W. Bush and the Senate to ensure that the replacement for the late Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist values religious liberty and church-state separation.

“Unfortunately, Chief Justice Rehnquist was often hostile to church-state separation and the guarantee of religious freedom it provides,” said Ayesha Khan, Americans United legal director. “In an infamous 1984 dissent, he called Thomas Jefferson's wall of separation between church and state a ‘metaphor which has proved useless as a guide to judging.' Rehnquist said it should be ‘frankly and explicitly abandoned.'”

Added Khan, “Americans United strongly disagreed with Rehnquist's views then, and still does today. His death, alongside the departure of Sandra Day O'Connor, puts the court in a state of transition. In the years to come, long-settled church-state law governing issues such as religion in public education, government endorsement of religion and taxpayer aid to sectarian endeavors could be reconsidered.

“It is imperative that the American people insist that President Bush and the Senate consider only nominees who respect America's great tradition of religious liberty,” Khan said. “Americans United will oppose any nominee who seeks to disregard the legacy left us by our Founding Fathers.”

Concluded Khan, “Given all this at stake, we call on all Americans who value Jefferson's wall to monitor this situation carefully and make their voices heard as Bush and the Senate consider a replacement for the late chief justice.”

Khan noted that on Tuesday the Senate Judiciary Committee will begin hearings on high court nominee John Roberts to replace O'Connor. Americans United has urged the committee to reject Roberts due to his decades-long opposition to church-state separation.

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.

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.