Americans United Report Details Extreme Views Of Federal Court Nominee Bill Pryor

AU's Lynn Says Alabama Attorney General's Agenda Is 'Dangerous And Divisive '

A report issued by Americans United for Separation of Church and State today details the extreme agenda of federal appeals court nominee Bill Pryor.

Pryor, currently Alabama's attorney general, was recently nominated for a slot on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals by President George W. Bush. Americans United argues that Pryor is unfit for the position and has asked the Senate to reject his appointment.

"Pryor's political career has literally been a crusade to 'Christianize' America through government action," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. "This is a dangerous and divisive agenda, and he must not be given a seat on our federal courts to promote it."

According to the report, "Pryor Offenses: Federal Court Nominee Bill Pryor's Record Of Extremism," Pryor has aggressively opposed separation of church and state and demonstrated hostility toward religious pluralism in America; has questioned the Supreme Court's role as final arbitrator of constitutional conflicts; has argued that the First Amendment does not fully apply to the states and has bitterly assailed long-standing Supreme Court precedents protecting individual rights.

Highlights from the report, which was released today at a Washington, D.C., press conference, include:

  • Pryor has bitterly criticized Supreme Court rulings upholding "the so-called wall of separation between church and state." At an Oct. 19, 1999, debate in Dallas sponsored by the local affiliate of the Federalist Society, he insisted that the First Amendment does not mandate "the strict separation of church and state."
  • Pryor has argued that Christianity is an integral part of the American constitutional order. In a 1997 speech at McGill-Toolen Catholic High School in Mobile, Ala., he said, "The American experiment is not a theocracy and does not establish an official religion, but the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States are rooted in a Christian perspective of the nature of government and the nature of man. The challenge of the next millennium will be to preserve the American experiment by restoring its Christian perspective. "
  • Pryor has used his office to inflame public opinion against court rulings upholding church-state separation. In April of 1997, he appeared at a "Save the Commandments" rally in Montgomery in support of Roy Moore, a state judge under fire for displaying the Ten Commandments in his courtroom.

    Pryor framed the legal fight as a religious crusade, telling the crowd, "God has chosen, through his son Jesus Christ, this time, this place for all Christians Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox to save our country and save our courts. "
  • Pryor has argued that states should be free to ignore federal court rulings they dislike. In the March 13, 1997, issue of The Alabama Baptist, Pryor defended then-Gov. Fob James' right to follow his own interpretation of the Constitution regardless of what the courts say.

    Said Pryor, "The governor feels strongly that there are matters of serious constitutional significance where the executive branch has the duty to uphold the Constitution as the executive branch interprets." Pryor said there are techniques the executive branch can use so that it "does not have to implement rulings with which it disagrees. "

"Bill Pryor is a dangerous ideologue with a cavalier attitude toward our most basic freedoms," said AU's Lynn. "His views are far outside the legal mainstream. I urge all Americans to call their senators and urge them to reject the Pryor nomination "

Americans United for Separation of Church and State 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.