Garland’s Church-State Views Are a Mystery

Merrick Garland, the nominee of President Obama to fill the Supreme Court vacancy resulting from the death of Antonin Scalia, is widely viewed, at least by mainstream commentators, as a highly competent and intelligent jurist. He may never get to the high court due to GOP obstinance, but even those who refuse to give him a vote seem to speak highly of him. Despite Garland’s lengthy career on the federal bench, however, it seems that his views on church-state separation are largely a mystery.

Initial reviews of Garland’s jurisprudence have revealed no significant Establishment Clause rulings. This is partly because the court on which Garland sits–the DC Circuit Court of Appeals–doesn’t tend to attract many Establishment Clause cases. Even if we go beyond the Establishment Clause to look to cases involving other areas of religion in government–free exercise, for example, religious discrimination, or even the Religious Freedom Restoration Act–the Garland trail is scant.  Here’s a story from the Religion Clause Blog that discusses the few decisions that are out there.

The Easy Way Out

Several people have suggested that I write something in the aftermath of the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. The problem is, I feel like I’ve exhausted Scalia as a subject, having said pretty much everything I’d want to say about him in a piece written for The Humanist magazine back in 2010. That piece was a review of Joan Biskupic’s biography of Scalia, American Original: The Life of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. That’s why I was pleased when the magazine’s editor, Jennifer Bardi, suggested that the piece run again this week, in the wake of Scalia’s death.

I realize, of course, that reposting an article written almost six years ago is the easy way out, but I’m happy to take it for a couple of reasons. For one, I’m glad that the article still seems relevant after all this time. But besides that, it relieves me of having to write about a subject that, quite frankly, I’d much rather move past. The Scalia era is over — now it’s time to recuperate.  The piece from The Humanist is here.