More than 50 Southern Baptist and other evangelical leaders have endorsed the confirmation of new Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch in a letter sponsored by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
The Southern Baptist Convention entity released the letter Feb. 1, a day after President Trump announced his nomination of Gorsuch, a federal appeals court judge the last 10 years. If confirmed, Gorsuch would fill the seat on the nine-person high court left vacant by the death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia last February.
The letter's signers included the current SBC president and some former ones, as well as heads of some of the convention's entities and seminaries. Also signing, among others, were pastors, university presidents and evangelical institutional leaders.
The ERLC plans to send the letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will hold hearings as part of what could be a contentious confirmation process.
A judge on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, Gorsuch espouses the judicial philosophy for which Scalia was famous during his 30 years as a justice—one marked by interpreting the Constitution based on its original meaning and laws according to their text.
In their letter, the Southern Baptists and other evangelicals said they believe Gorsuch's judicial philosophy meets the thresholds of their "core social principles." Those precepts include in the Supreme Court's purview "the protection of the unborn, the strengthening of religious liberty, and a dedication to human flourishing—which we believe can only be accomplished by a biblical definition of marriage and family."
"As evangelical leaders, we support President Trump's nomination and pray for a quick confirmation process," they wrote, urging the Senate to "work diligently to confirm his appointment without obstruction."
ERLC President Russell Moore said in a statement announcing the letter: "Few presidential decisions are as consequential and lasting as Supreme Court appointments, and Neil Gorsuch is an outstanding choice. He is a brilliant and articulate defender of constitutional originalism in the mold of [Scalia].
"I'm overjoyed to be joined on this statement by convictional leaders from across the evangelical spectrum who support President Trump's nomination and who believe that Judge Gorsuch represents exactly the kind of judge our country needs on the Supreme Court," Moore said. "We stand together in support of his appointment and pray for a quick confirmation process."
Among the letter's signers in addition to Moore were:
• SBC President Steve Gaines;
• Former convention presidents Ronnie Floyd, Jack Graham, Johnny Hunt and Frank S. Page (now SBC Executive Committee president and CEO);
• SBC seminary presidents Daniel Akin of Southeastern, Jason Allen of Midwestern, Jeff Iorg of Gateway, R. Albert Mohler Jr. of Southern, and Paige Patterson (also a former convention president) of Southwestern;
• Convention entity heads O.S. Hawkins of GuideStone Financial Resources and Thom Rainer of LifeWay Christian Resources;
• Pastors Alistair Begg, J.D. Greear, D.A. Horton, Greg Laurie, Gregg Matte, Tommy Nelson, Ray Ortlund, Jimmy Scroggins, A.B. Vines and Afshin Ziafat;
• Denominational/organizational heads Denny Burk of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, D.A. Carson of The Gospel Coalition, Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, Mark Tooley of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, Roland Warren of Care Net, and George Wood of the Assemblies of God;
• University or seminary presidents David Dockery of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Timothy George of Beeson Divinity School, Richard Land of Southern Evangelical Seminary, Samuel (Dub) Oliver of Union University, Thomas White of Cedarville University and David Whitlock of Oklahoma Baptist University.
Also signing was former U.S. Congressman Frank Wolf.
During his decade on the 10th Circuit Court, Gorsuch found the Obama administration's abortion/contraception mandate to be a violation of the religious freedom of non-profit organizations and for-profit businesses. While he wrote a book opposed to the legalization of assisted suicide before he became a judge, Gorsuch has reportedly not ruled on abortion rights.
Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service.