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Gorsuch and the big scare-quote religion stuff? So far, little light shed on Supreme Court pick

Gorsuch and the big scare-quote religion stuff? So far, little light shed on Supreme Court pick

By Julia Duin
February 1, 2017

Gorsuch and the big scare-quote religion stuff? So far, little light shed on Supreme Court pick
What reporters have missed about Judge Neil Gorsuch, the President's nominee for the Supreme Court, is that the Episcopal parish he attends in downtown Boulder is headed by a female priest.

Think about that for a moment. If this man is the frightening conservative that some on the Left are already alleging him to be, there's no way he'd be Episcopalian, much less at a woman-priested church. It will be interesting to see if the Episcopal hierarchy issues any kind of formal reaction to this nomination. Watch this space: The Episcopal News Service.

The Episcopal Church, for anyone who's not been following religion trends in recent decades, has been careening to the theological and cultural left for years and its membership statistics show it. Thousands have left TEC and joined alternative Anglican churches.

Not so this judge. A church in bluest of blue Boulder is not going to be a conservative hideout and this article notes that Gorsuch's parish is pretty liberal. The place is St. John's, Boulder and for you trivia experts out there, it's the same church that JonBenet Ramsey's family attended. A Google search shows there's an Anglican church in Boulder that the Gorsuch family could be attending if they so desired.

So, the fact that the judge and his family has remained at St. John's says something.

So far, the mainstream press has missed all that and concentrated on his court rulings on hot-button topics, the kinds of subjects often framed in scare quotes. For example, while his precise views on abortion remain a mystery, he has written extensively on euthanasia -- producing a book on the topic ("The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia").

What the New York Times ran with is typical: What the New York Times ran with is typical:

While he has not written extensively on several issues of importance to many conservatives, including gun control and gay rights, Judge Gorsuch has taken strong stands in favor of religious freedom, earning him admiration from the right.

He voted in favor of Hobby Lobby Stores, a family-owned company that objected to regulations under the Affordable Care Act requiring many employers to provide free contraception coverage. Similarly, he dissented from a decision not to rehear a ruling requiring the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of nuns, to comply with an aspect of the regulations.

The Washington Post had more details on the choosing of the nominee and the fact that he's Episcopalian.

The Denver Post had the most, with this basic background story plus more background on the nominee's personal life from the Boulder Daily Camera. But nothing about his faith. Neither did the Colorado Springs Gazette.

So it fell to Religion News Service to supply the name of the Episcopal church in downtown Boulder -- although not the part about the female priest, which tells you right away that Gorsuch is not an Antonin Scalia clone. Judge Scalia went out of his way to attend a Latin Mass at a northern Virginia parish some distance from his home and such parishes don't allow female acolytes, much less priests.

The nominee attended Georgetown Preparatory School in Bethesda while his mother, Ann Gorsuch, headed up the Environmental Protection Agency. However, that doesn't put him in the Catholic camp any more than the presence of President Barack Obama's daughters at Sidwell Friends School made them Quakers.

Christianity Today lined up a number of religious personalities who approve of Gorsuch. Crux opined on topics showing where Gorsuch may or may not line up with Catholic doctrine. And Slate ran a bunch of pieces that concluded that Gorsuch may not be all that bad.

So I'm hoping I'm hoping other reporters connect the dots about the judge's religious proclivities. His church choice just may hint at certain leanings.

One more thing. This guy is a Coloradan to the bone and he skis double-black diamond slopes. Obviously, he's a daredevil at heart.

Julian Duin is a freelance writer living in Portland, Oregon

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