For Immediate Release
Americans United Praises Justice Stevens' Record On Church And State
WASHINGTON - Americans United for Separation of Church and State today praised
Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens for his record of support for
church-state separation and expressed the hope that his replacement
will hold similar views.
Stevens, the oldest member of the court, announced this morning that
he will retire at the end of this term. President Barack Obama is
expected to soon reveal his choice to replace Stevens.
“Justice Stevens is an icon -- a thoughtful, perceptive justice who
understands the role of church-state separation in American life,” said
the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “It is
vitally important that President Obama choose a high court nominee who
understands that government may not meddle in matters of religion.
“The high court is deeply divided on church-state issues,” Lynn
continued. “It is imperative that Stevens’ replacement be someone who
understands and upholds the constitutional mandate of church-state
Lynn pointed out that Stevens voted consistently against efforts to
interject religion into public schools and to funnel tax aid to
sectarian schools. He opposed government display of sectarian symbols
on public property. At the same time, he was an ardent supporter of the
free exercise of religion.
In 2002, Stevens issued a strong dissent from the high court’s
ruling upholding voucher subsidies for private schools in Cleveland,
noting that most of the public funds went to religious institutions. (Zelman v. Simmons-Harris)
“Whenever we remove a brick from the wall that was designed to
separate religion and government, we increase the risk of religious
strife and weaken the foundations of our democracy,” Stevens wrote.
Lynn said Americans United will closely monitor the nomination
process to ensure that Stevens’ replacement has the same regard for
Appointed by President Gerald R. Ford, Stevens has served on the Supreme Court since 1975.
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.