Evangelical and pro-life leaders are praising President Donald Trump for following through on his campaign promise to nominate a constitutionalist and pro-life jurist to the United States Supreme Court by nominating 10th Circuit Judge Neil Gorsuch on Tuesday night.
"President Trump made an exceptional choice by nominating Neil Gorsuch, who holds such a view of service leadership to carry on the legacy of the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court," Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the national pro-life lobbying group Susan B. Anthony List, said during a conference call with reporters Tuesday night. "In nominating him, President Trump has kept his promise to nominate only pro-life judges to the Supreme Court."
Gorsuch, 49, is a former clerk for Supreme Court Justices Anthony Kennedy and Byron White, and has proven over his career as a judge to strictly interpret the U.S. Constitution as originally written and protect the First Amendment right of religious freedom.
"Gorsuch is a distinguished jurist with a strong record of protecting life and religious liberty, as evidence by his opinions in the Hobby Lobby and Little Sisters of the Poor cases and his doctoral dissertation in which he wrote that 'human life is fundamentally and inherently valuable and it is always wrong to take it,'" Dannenfelser explained.
Having served on the United States 10th Circuit Court of Appeals since 2006, Gorsuch voted in favor of organizations that brought legal challenges against an Obamacare contraceptive mandate that forced religious organizations and Christian-owned businesses to be complicit in providing health care services to their employees that they felt violated their religious convictions.
Both cases went to the Supreme Court and Hobby Lobby won its Supreme Court case in 2014. However, the split, Scalia-less court voted last year to send the Little Sisters' case back to the lower court in a decision seen as somewhat of a small victory for the plaintiffs.
"I think what we have seen form his opinions and vote from the Hobby Lobby case, as well as his vote in the Little Sisters of the Poor case, is that he is reading the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act correctly and not letting the biases that seem to affect so many judges impair him," Ed Whelan, a former law clerk for Scalia and president of the Washington-based Ethics & Public Policy Center, said during the conference call.
"I think his reading is clearly the right one on the statute," he added. "I think it is just another example of his faithful adherence to interpretive methodology."
Gorsuch also sided with Utah Gov. Gary Herbert last July in a case where the 10th Circuit Court ruled that the governor could not block federal funds designated for the nation's largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood.
Gorsuch also penned a 2005 National Review op-ed in which he criticizes the political Left for using the judicial system instead of elected lawmakers to advance its "social agenda."
Whelan was asked whether or not there was any concern over the fact that Gorsuch has never issued a statement about his views on Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion on-demand nationwide.
"No. How many lower court judges have written opinions on Roe v. Wade?" Whelan asked. "I look at his interpretive methodology and his character and that gives me great comfort. It takes a very willful judge to misread the Constitution like the Supreme Court did in Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. I don't think Neil Gorsuch is that type of judge. He has shown that he is a serious textualist and originalist and if those are his qualities, then I feel very comfortable on where he will end up on that case."
The pro-life website Live Action News' Calvin Freiburger offers a detailed overview on Gorsuch's limited record on abortion and asserts that "pro-lifers should be cautiously optimistic." He added that pro-lifers should call on Gorsuch to issue a statement on whether he believes Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided.
"The good news is that all available evidence suggests Gorsuch would be a reliable pro-life justice, and no evidence suggests he'd let us down," Freiburger wrote. "The bad news is that he's not explicitly [clear] on the record as wanting Roe gone."
Trump's selection of Gorsuch has also earned the praise of prominent Trump critic and leading Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore.
"He is a brilliant and articulate defender of Constitutional originalism in the mold of the man he will replace: Justice Antonin Scalia," Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said in a statement. "His career is one that exemplifies the very best of intellectually robust conservatism, judicial restraint and faithfulness to the Constitution. I heartily support President Trump's excellent appointment."
With the balance of the Supreme Court being one of the most important issues in the 2016 election, Trump won over the support of a number of hesitant conservatives and evangelicals by vowing to select pro-life and constitutionalist judges. In order to show that he was serious about his vow, Trump compiled a shortlist of jurists that he said he would use to select nominees to the Supreme Court. Trump even sought the input of conservative organizations like The Federalist Society and Heritage Foundation.
"In the third presidential debate, Donald Trump drove home his point about the type of Supreme Court nominees that he would select. I believe that moment in the debate helped seal the deal with millions of social conservative voters," Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said in a statement expressing his support for Gorsuch. "In fact, exit polling found that 21 percent of voters pointed to the Supreme Court as the 'most important factor driving their vote' and Trump won that group by 16 points."
Now that Gorsuch's nomination is official, it remains to be seen whether or not he will be confirmed by the Senate or if Senate Democrats will filibuster to block the nomination.
As 60 votes are needed in the Senate to avoid a filibuster and the GOP controls only 52 seats, Dannenfelser said the SBA List is working to lobby Senate Democrats who hold pro-life views — like West Virginia's Joe Manchin and Indiana's Joe Donnelly.
However, Republicans in the Senate might move to amend the Senate rules if Democrats filibuster.
"The Democrats are not going to succeed in filibustering the Supreme Court nominee," Texas Sen. Ted Cruz told Politico on Tuesday. "All procedural options are on the table. The bottom line is we will confirm a strong conservative to replace Justice Scalia."