Americans United Deplores Senate Judiciary Committee Vote In Favor Of Judge Nominee With Extreme Views

AU's Lynn Says Former Alabama Attorney General William Pryor Has Long Record Of Hostility For First Amendment

Americans United for Separation of Church and State today criticized the Senate Judiciary Committee for moving another of the Bush administration's far-right judicial nominees closer to a lifetime appointment on the federal appeals court.

The administration is relentlessly pushing the nomination of former Alabama Attorney General William Pryor to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Pryor has been blocked by filibuster in the Senate but was appointed to a temporary term by President George W. Bush. He was renominated earlier this year.

In a party-line vote today, the Senate Judiciary Committee sent Pryor's nomination to the Senate floor for consideration, where it is likely to prompt another filibuster.

"William Pryor has spent much of his legal career lambasting the federal courts for upholding First Amendment rights as well as other fundamental freedoms," said Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn. "He has even questioned whether federal court rulings are binding on the states. Our federal appeals courts are in need of fair-minded and impartial judges, not political ideologues."

Americans United has fought Pryor's nomination from the beginning, citing a litany of public comments and actions revealing his utter disregard and outright contempt for church-state separation.

During most of his tenure as Alabama attorney general, Pryor vigorously supported former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore's efforts to keep a Ten Commandments display in the state Judicial Building. Pryor has often attacked federal court precedent, once telling a lawyers' society that, the First Amendment does not mandate "the strict separation of church and state."

In an April 27 letter to senators, Lynn argued that Pryor's "extreme ideology would affect the way he would interpret the law as a confirmed federal appellate judge. It remains the case that Pryor has a well-established record of aggressively opposing the separation of church and state and subverting religious pluralism."

When President Bush first put Pryor forth, Americans United sent a report to the judiciary committee detailing his troubling record. It noted in part that Pryor once asserted in a Wall Street Journal column that for several decades, the courts advanced a "liberal agenda" by imposing results "on a wide range of issues, including racial quotas, school prayer, abortion and homosexual rights."

"Pryor is not deserving of a seat on the federal appeals court bench," Lynn said. "His contempt and misunderstanding of the federal courts is well documented. Our organization will join with many other public interest groups in urging the entire Senate to derail Pryor's nomination."

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.