Alito on Church and State

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Just days after the quiet town of Dover, Pa. ousted its evangelical school board, which had been intent on infusing its public school curriculum with intelligent design theories, the apparent church-state views of Samuel Alito, Bush’s pick for the Supreme Court were revealed in a 1985 application released Monday by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. In the application, Alito described not only his thoroughgoing conservatism, but also how his inspiration to study constitutional law stemmed in part from his opposition to a strong separation of church and state.

The young Alito states in his application, which he submitted to apply for a promotion within the Solicitor General’s Office, that he strongly disagreed with church-state precedents forged by the Warren Court (1953-1969), including its famed exclusion of prayer and barring coerced participation in religious activities at public schools. In addition, reflecting upon his as assistantship to Reagan’s Solicitor General, Alito remarked that he was “particularly proud” of their work “in which the government has argued…that the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion.” Although today Alito discounted his antagonism to Roe v. Wade expressed in his 1985 application, as the statements of “an advocate seeking a job.”

In a court already conflicted on matters concerning religious beliefs—such as abortion, and allowing prayer in public schools—Alito’s presence could prove decisive, noted Elliott Mincburg of PFAW. While the absence of a paper trail allowed John Roberts to slip through his congressional hearings without divulging his political opinions, Alito’s public record paves the way for a probing inquisition into his beliefs. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, told the Washington Times

Past nominees have said they could not discuss these issues for fear of creating a perception of bias. Here, unfortunately, the memo itself creates the perception of bias, and it will be crucial for this nominee to address the issue head-on.

President of PFAW, Ralph G. Neas, noted that “unlike Chief Justice John Roberts, Alito says these are his own strong personal views, and not just those of the administration he was working for.”

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