Americans United Urges Senate To Reject Appeals Court Nomination Of William Pryor

Watchdog Group Says Judicial Nominee Is Deeply Hostile To First Amendment Principle Of Church-State Separation

Americans United for Separation of Church and State today urged the Senate to reject the nomination of William Pryor to the federal appeals court bench.

The Senate is reportedly nearing a cloture vote on former Alabama Attorney General Pryor, and a floor vote on the nominee is expected to follow shortly thereafter. The Bush administration is seeking to place Pryor on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Americans United has objected to Pryor's nomination, citing his long record of hostility to the First Amendment principle of church-state separation and his zealous defense of former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore's crusade to keep a 2.5-ton Ten Commandments monument on display in the state's Judicial Building.

"Bill Pryor is deeply hostile to church-state separation and the religious liberty rights ensured by that constitutional principle," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "He seems to think that the Bill of Rights allows for majority rule on matters of religion, and that's a dangerous viewpoint for a person on the federal bench. The Senate should reject this nomination."

Lynn noted that Americans United has detailed Pryor's disturbing legal record in letters and a report sent to the Senate.

In 1997 at a Montgomery rally for the embattled Moore, Pryor proclaimed that Christians must rescue the country from an alleged moral decline.

"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 told a gathering of thousands.

During the same year, in a speech before the ultraconservative Federalist Society, Pryor lambasted Supreme Court decisions upholding the First Amendment principle of church-state separation. According to Pryor, "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."

Like other ultraconservatives, Pryor also rails against privacy rights protected by the Bill of Rights. In particular, Pryor has employed lurid rhetoric to attack reproductive rights. During his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2003, Pryor defended his past assertions that Roe v. Wade "is an abominable decision."

"I believe that not only is the case unsupported by the text and structure of the Constitution, but it has led to a morally wrong result," Pryor told the committee. "It has led to the slaughter of millions of innocent unborn children."

Pryor has also publicly implied that not all federal court decisions are necessarily binding on the states. In a 1997 interview with The Alabama Baptist, Pryor suggested the executive branch "does not have to implement rulings with which it disagrees."

"One of the things I think is critical," Pryor continued, "in a constitutional democracy is that executive branch and legislative branch officials feel free to criticize court rulings with which they disagree. There are those who believe that when the Supreme Court of the United States announces a ruling, it is on par with the Constitution itself, and I am sorry, it is not."

Lynn said that the Senate would do a great disservice to American citizens by allowing Pryor a lifetime appointment to a federal appeals court seat.

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.