The quartet of religious-liberty-related decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court this week have proven that the sky is blue, the sea is deep and newly minted Justice Neil Gorsuch is as reliable a part of the court's right flank as everyone hoped, feared and denied he would be.
Whether it was on the travel ban that singled out certain Muslim-majority countries, the Lutheran school playground, the wedding-cake baker or the same-sex parents on the birth certificate, Justice Gorsuch joined the most conservative justices, Thomas and Alito. They deferred to the administration on the travel ban, despite lower-court rulings who found animus toward Muslims in it, and they echoed the arguments of conservatives (Christian and otherwise) on the other three cases.
Justice Gorsuch lacks the rhetorical flourish of his predecessor, Antonin Scalia. Otherwise he's in the same mold. So Sen. McConnell's unprecedented decision to bury the Merrick Garland nomination for a year continues to have the real-world consequences he wanted. Not only did the vacancy become a powerful motivator in prompting conservative Christians to hold their nose and vote for an uncivil, self-admitted philanderer and groper for president, on the hopes of getting the likes of a Gorsuch, but they also got Gorsuch.
So the state of church-state law is what it is today because of that.
Gorsuch is everything the Heritage Foundation expected when it put forth his name, among others, to Trump. And he's everything that liberals feared. Read this excellent analysis by the Washington Times, and this by church-state-law expert Melissa Rogers.
During the confirmation hearings, Gorsuch was criticized for offering bland non-answer answers to questions of substance and ideology. Democrats who spent their last attempt at a filibuster against Gorsuch were criticized as paranoid and alarmist for opposing the calm, affable, clearly brilliant Gorsuch. The defenders of Gorsuch said he shouldn't be asked to paint himself into ideological corners in the Q&A, that he should apply his renowned intelligence to the merits of each case.
Of course, that raises the question of why the brilliant Garland wouldn't have done just as well. Clearly Gorsuch, like Scalia, has a well-formed worldview, and he's not hesitating to apply it.
Oh, by the way: Be careful what you wish for. Whether you're a religious entity or not, be careful about those offers of playground rubber. Some say the stuff isn't good for kids.