Roberts Is Wrong Choice For Chief Justice, Says Americans United

Head Of Judicial Branch Of Government Should Not Be An Ideologue, Watchdog Group Asserts

John G. Roberts is the wrong candidate to replace William H. Rehnquist as chief justice, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

President George W. Bush has announced Roberts’ nomination to the nation’s top judicial slot. Americans United, which opposed Roberts’ nomination to replace Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, says his proposed elevation to chief justice raises the stakes.

“The chief justice is the head of the third branch of government,” said Ayesha Khan, legal director of Americans United. “This key position must not be filled by an ideologue with a far-right agenda. Roberts is the wrong person for this extraordinarily important job.”

Last week, Americans United issued a detailed report on Roberts’ hostility to court decisions upholding religious freedom (PDF). The report concluded that Roberts would seek to dramatically lower the wall of separation between church and state, endangering the rights of religious minorities.

“Our nation must have a chief justice who respects church-state separation and will ensure proper constitutional protections for all Americans,” said Khan. “Americans deserve a chief justice who seeks to protect, not undermine, the handiwork of our Founding Fathers.”

Americans United also called on a prompt release of all relevant White House documents relating to Roberts and called on the Senate to closely question the nominee about his past statements and actions.

Khan noted that the next chief justice could end up leading the court for decades. In light of that, she said, it is imperative that a nominee be chosen who believes in freedom of conscience. Roberts, she said, fails that test.

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.