President Trump's decision to select federal appeals court Judge Neil Gorsuch to fill a Supreme Court seat has garnered the praise of Christian and conservative leaders across America, who say it's a major win for religious freedom.
Kelly Shackelford, President and CEO of First Liberty Institute, the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans, told The Gospel Herald that Gorsuch has a "solid record" on religious liberty and upholding constitutional freedoms.
"We're all about religious liberty, so our priorities are to restore any of the religious freedoms that were lost and advance religious freedom by getting good judges on the court," he said. "America desperately needs Supreme Court justices who will uphold the Constitution and defend religious liberty. President Trump promised to appoint pro-religious freedom judges to the Supreme Court, and he is fulfilling that promise."
Like Justice Antonin Scalia before him, Gorsuch is a solidly conservative judge known for adhering to a strict interpretation of the U.S. Constitution and defending the sanctity of life - qualities Shackelford say could tip the balance of the Supreme Court.
"The next justice will make a big difference," said Shackelford. "Justice Scalia was the deciding vote on many of the big religious freedom cases, so a major issue and cause for great concern was the makeup of the court, who is going to replace him, and how long that's going to take. If another conservative judge is nominated, you could have a really big switch - you could have Roe Vs. Wade overturned, among many other important rulings."
First Liberty notes that some of the most notable religious freedom opinions Judge Gorsuch wrote or signed as a judge on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals include the HHS Abortion Pill Mandate, where he supported the rights of ministries and closely-held family businesses to be free from the burden imposed by the HHS Abortion Pill Mandate; the Establishment Clause, where he upheld the constitutionality of the public display of Ten Commandments monuments; and the Monuments and Memorials, where he wrote an opinion defending the existence of cross-shaped memorials for fallen state troopers.
"A lot of people were concerned that - depending on which way the election went - religious freedom was going to be in great danger," Shackelford said. "It looked like a bleak future, but instead, we're looking at the very opposite; there's a lot of opportunity to advance religious freedom. How long that window of opportunity will remain open is anybody's guess, but I think people realize that now is the time to take advantage of it."
Other conservative leaders to applaud the nomination include Focus on the Family founder Dr. James Dobson; Dr. Ronnie Floyd; Dr. David Jeremiah; Pastor Greg Laurie; Dr. Mike Evans, and the Rev. Dr. Samuel Rodriguez, among others.
In a statement shared with The Gospel Herald, Dr. Dobson said he was "encouraged" by Judge Gorsuch's dedication to preserving religious freedom and protecting the sanctity of life.
"I thank God that if confirmed, this administration will have delivered on one of its most critical campaign promises-to appoint a judge in the mold of the late Justice Antonin Scalia who will uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States and the original intent of its framers," he said.
Dr. Jeremiah praised Gorsuch as a judge who has "proven himself to be a reliable conservative."
"The Supreme Court represents the bedrock of our republic, and it has safeguarded the American people from executive overreach, by both presidents on the left and the right, for hundreds of years," he said. "I pray for our leaders that they would have the wisdom and the political courage to swiftly confirm Judge Gorsuch to the highest court in the land. I thank God that President Trump and Vice President Pence have selected a judge who will carry on the legacy of the late Justice Antonin Scalia."
Dr. Floyd, Senior Pastor of Cross Church and the Immediate Past President of the Southern Baptist Convention, expressed hope that, if confirmed, Judge Gorsuch will "lead a long and successful career as a Supreme Court Justice."
"I pray that these next years will turn out to be America's best," he said. "But this will only happen if we stay true to who we are. May our next Supreme Court Justice honor our Constitution as it was originally intended."