I have so many concerns about the future of our county that it is hard to choose one to focus on, but it seems that all of them may hinge on the Supreme Court, which is why I am most concerned about the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the position of Supreme Court Justice. Neil Gorsuch is well educated, qualified, and generally well liked for his amiable demeanor. For this reason he may have been mistaken as a “moderate” choice who should sail through the confirmation process. However, as an avid Constitutional “originalist,” please do not neglect the fact that he holds extremely conservative views. He makes his rulings based on interpretations of the presumed original intent of the Constitution as written in 1789, without consideration of subsequent history or modern realities. This perspective threatens advances we have made over the past 80 years in civil liberties, labor rights, environmental protections, reproductive rights, and the Affordable Healthcare Act, to name just a few.

He has a history of favoring religious rights over civil rights, and corporate rights over individual rights, with the most notable example being the Hobby Lobby case. Judge Gorsuch ruled that this corporation had the right to refuse to provide any medication or treatment to their employees which it deemed was in conflict with their “religious belief.” (In this case contraceptives.) This was the first time in U.S. history that a for-profit corporation was granted “religious rights,” and those religious rights overruled the individual’s rights afforded under the law. No matter how you feel about the ACA or contraceptives, this ruling sets a dangerous precedent that degrades all our rights as individual citizens, in favor of any corporation’s stated religious beliefs. What if a corporation decided that it was “against its religion” to pay minimum wage? What if it was “against the religion” of Woolworth’s to serve someone of color at the lunch counter? His view when deciding cases is not to uphold the existing laws and statues of Federal agencies, but rather to refer only to a strict interpretation of the original 1789 Constitution. If challenged, the integrity of current laws and protections under the jurisdiction of federal agencies such as the EPA, FDA, Labor, Health & Human Services, the Department of Education, and more could be eroded or even reversed.

Despite the overwhelming public opinion against big money in politics and calls to “drain the swamp,” Gorsuch supports increasing corporate influence in politics, suggesting that donating to a politician is a “fundamental” right that ought to be afforded the highest form of constitutional protection, which is known as “strict scrutiny review” — more protected even than the right to vote. Gorsuch could vote to remove the existing limit on donations to federal candidates, allowing unlimited personal and corporate donations to go directly to candidates. As such a staunch defender of large corporate interests he is very unlikely to overturn Citizens United. Furthermore he has a history of ruling in favor of concentrating corporate power and wealth and surpassing fair open markets through numerous rulings that erode anti-trust laws. 

Senator Charles Schumer recently asked Neil Gorsuch if a “Muslim Ban” would be unconstitutional. He would not give a definitive answer. Senator Schumer also asked him what he thought about the “emoluments” clause of the Constitution and how it might apply to the President’s business interests and the influence of foreign powers on the Executive Branch. He again refused to offer an opinion. The lack of response to these two questions is surprising from someone who claims to take such a strict interpretation of the Constitution. It may reveal that he is less an enthusiast of the U.S. Constitution, and more of a Alt-Right Conservative ready to uphold the White House agenda at all cost, despite the Constitution. 

Finally, on a most personal matter, just six months ago, my sister, who was suffering from late stage terminal breast cancer, chose assisted suicide. She did this with total acceptance, dignity and grace, in her own home, surrounded by her loved ones. It was the hardest thing I have ever experienced in my life, but I believe it was the best choice for her — and most importantly it was her choice. Currently this is allowed in just five states. (There is a bill pending in the Maine State Legislature now.) However, Judge Gorsuch firmly opposes “Death with Dignity” laws. He feels so strongly about it he even wrote a book on the subject. If these state laws are challenged, the Supreme Court is likely to reverse these laws and it will no longer be a choice for thousands who are suffering the ravages of deadly illness.

In summary, with Neil Gorsuch as Supreme Court justice, corporations could become more powerful, more wealthy, and more consolidated. Corporations could have even more influence over The People, the rights of individuals would be usurped by the rights of a corporation with adopted belief systems counter to an individual’s rights. Existing laws involving everything from civil rights, voting rights, environmental protections, labor standards, and reproductive rights and more could be reversed. Eighty years of progress is at stake. If this administration’s conflicts of interest are challenged in court, he might not use the emoluments clause in the Constitution to hold them accountable. If Judge Gorsuch upheld a “travel ban” targeted at particular religions or nationalities, we could slide into the Christian white supremacist world that radical members of the Trump administration openly advocate. Moderate Republicans, Independents, Democrats, Libertarians, Progressives, and anyone who cares about individual freedoms should be very concerned about Neil Gorsuch serving on the Supreme Court for the next 30 years or more. His record indicates he would not be serving The People. We could lose America as we know it, for a very long time. 

Sarah Holland, Camden