President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court justice nominee is an advocate of prayer at public school events.
Brett Kavanaugh, a school teacher’s son and Washington, D.C., federal appeals court judge, can be the 114th justice to sit on the court if the Senate confirms the 53-year-old. During Trump’s announcement, he described Kavanaugh as “one of the finest and sharpest legal minds in our time.”
The Supreme Court can have a 5–4 conservative majority if approved.
The appeals judge wrote an amicus curiae brief, which is a brief submitted by someone with interest in the matter, for the 2000 Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe case.
He supported the case dealing with student-led prayer at Texas public high school football games. The Supreme Court determined prayer before a school-sponsored athletic event is unconstitutional because it violated the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.
In the amicus curiae brief, the Yale Law School graduate said “the school cannot force the student to ‘say a prayer,’ nor can the school prohibit the student from ‘saying a prayer'” in his amicus brief. Furthermore, he said the school’s policy for “pre-game student statements satisfies the Constitution.”
As an appeals judge, he wrote a concurring opinion in the 2010 Newdow v. Roberts case that constitutionally challenged the prayers done at former President Barack Obama’s inauguration. This case did not specifically deal with religion in school, but the case “concerned government-sponsored religious speech at public events outside of the public school setting.”
In his opinion, the Yale graduate said atheists had the same rights as Americans and, under the United States Constitution, as religious groups.
He also wrote, “We cannot dismiss the desire of others in America to publicly ask for God’s blessing on certain government activities and to publicly seek God’s guidance for certain government officials.”
Kavanaugh mentioned ceremonial deism in the footnotes of his opinion. This term referenced “a variety of governmental references to God and prayers in the public square.”
Most recently, Kavanaugh wrote an opinion piece in 2017 called “From the Bench: The Constitutional Statesmanship of Chief Justice William Rehnquist.” In the piece, he praised Rehnquist efforts to reverse the trend of “erecting a strict wall of separation between church and state.” Also in the piece, Kavanaugh says Rehnquist had much success in “ensuring that religious schools and religious institutions could participate as equals in society and in state benefits programs.”
— NEA (@NEAToday) July 10, 2018
Two of the biggest teacher unions seemed concerned with Trump’s nominee.
National Education Association tweeted Kavanaugh “can’t be trusted to protect the interests of students and educators.” Americans Federations for Teachers said in a statement that Judge Kavanaugh does not meet the standard of someone who will be “protecting the rights, freedoms and legal safeguards that protect every one of us.”