By Aaron Earls
To fill the vacancy left by retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, President Donald Trump announced Monday night (June 9) the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
Following Trump’s announcement, Kavanaugh said he was deeply honored to be nominated to fill Kennedy’s seat on the Supreme Court.
Many conservative evangelicals voiced their support for his nomination, but a few expressed regrets.
Previously, Kavanaugh has served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia for 10 years. After graduating Yale Law School and working as a clerk for two appeals court judges, he clerked for Justice Kennedy in 1993.
Kavanaugh joined Kenneth Starr at the Office of Independent Counsel and worked on the 1998 Starr Report to Congress, which outlined 11 grounds for the impeachment of then-President Bill Clinton. He also spent five years working in the George W. Bush White House.
He attends Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Washington, D.C., and serves as a lector, reading aloud sections of Scripture during services.
Following Trump’s announcement, several evangelical leaders praised the decision in a joint statement, saying Kavanaugh “merits appointment as the next associate justice on the United States Supreme Court.”
The statement was signed by, among others, Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission; Joel Belz, founder of World Magazine; D.A. Carson, president of The Gospel Coalition; Bob Lepine, senior vice president of FamilyLife; Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; several seminary and college presidents; several former presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention; and the current SBC leadership of president J.D. Greear, first vice president A.B. Vines, and second vice president Felix Cabrera.
“Given his credentials, and in view of the overwhelming support Judge Brett Kavanaugh received upon his appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in 2006, the U.S. Senate should work diligently to confirm his appointment without obstruction,” they wrote.
Jerry Johnson, president and CEO of National Religious Broadcasters, called Kavanaugh “an all-star” and said the judge was “eminently qualified to serve on the high court.”
Pro-life groups supported the nomination.
Douglas Johnson, senior policy adviser to National Right to Life, said Kavanaugh is “exceptionally well qualified to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court” and has a judicial record that “indicates a willingness to enforce the rights truly based on the history and text of the Constitution, while otherwise leaving policymaking in the hands of elected legislators.”
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, called Kavanaugh an “outstanding choice” and a “principled jurist with a strong record of protecting life and constitutional rights.”
Religious liberty advocates were also pleased with Kavanaugh.
Kelly Shackelford, president and CEO of First Liberty, said his organization was “pleased to have a Supreme Court nominee with a solid history and commitment to protecting the religious freedoms and First Amendment rights of our citizens.”
While in private practice during the 1990s, Kavanaugh served as chair of the religious liberty practice group for the Federalist Society, a conservative legal organization, and wrote Supreme Court briefs in support of religious liberty.
Others were more conflicted with the nomination.
In The Washington Post, David French, a constitutional lawyer, wrote that there is “arguably no better-credentialed nominee in all of conservative America” than Kavanaugh, but his nomination brought with it some disappointment.
French argued that Trump missed an opportunity to appoint Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who would’ve been a “base-motivating, electrifying pick.”
Nominating Barrett, a former Notre Dame law professor and current 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals judge, “represented a chance for an important cultural moment,” French wrote, “and opportunity for the best of young professional Christians to face the worst of progressive antireligion bias and prevail on the largest possible stage.”
The American Family Association went even further than French and urged senators to oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination, saying he is “simply the wrong nominee—even a bad nominee.” The AFA had previously advocated for Trump to name Barrett.
Now, the nomination goes to the Republican-controlled Senate, where majority leader Mitch McConnell has said he wants to hold confirmation hearings for Kavanaugh prior to midterm elections in November.
“I believe an independent judiciary is the crown jewel of our republic,” said Kavanaugh. “If confirmed by the Senate, I will keep an open mind in every case and I will always strive to preserve the Constitution of the United States and the American rule of law.”
AARON EARLS (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor of Facts & Trends.