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.