Brett Kavanaugh does not deserve a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.
Kavanaugh, a federal appeals court judge, was tapped by President Donald Trump to replace Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who announced his retirement in June. The Senate should say no to this nominee.
Kavanaugh doesn't respect America's tradition of church-state separation, as he made clear during a 2017 speech delivered to the American Enterprise Institute. During that talk, Kavanaugh expressed great admiration for the views of the late Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist. Rehnquist, an extreme conservative, attacked the metaphor of a "wall of separation" between church and state in his dissent to a 1984 school prayer case. He asserted that the wall metaphor was based on "bad history" and called it "useless."
The metaphor is most closely associated with Thomas Jefferson, who used it in an 1802 letter to the Danbury, Conn., Baptist Association. At the time, the Baptists were living under a state of religious oppression. Connecticut had an officially established church (Congregationalism), which suppressed the rights of other religious groups. The Baptists knew Jefferson was a champion of religious freedom and wrote to express their hope that his view on that issue would someday encompass the nation, freeing them from ecclesiastical bondage.
But Jefferson wasn't the only one to use a phrase like that. Colonial-era religious freedom pioneer Roger Williams spoke of the need for a "hedge or wall of Separation between the Garden of the Church and the Wilderness of the world," and James Madison endorsed a "line of separation" between church and state.
To Rehnquist, none of this history mattered. In fact, he greatly distorted it in his quest to discredit the idea of church-state separation. No jurist who believes that Rehnquist was right while Williams, Jefferson and Madison got it wrong belongs on our nation's highest court.
While serving as an attorney in private practice, Kavanaugh wrote a legal brief attacking the Supreme Court's decisions striking down school-sponsored prayer and religious worship in public schools. These practices are clearly coercive because they pressure young people to take part in religion against their will. Kavanaugh defended them on the grounds of tradition. That's cold comfort to the kids who would have religion pressed on them, often in contravention to their parents' wishes.
Kavanaugh has also expressed support for taxpayer aid to religious schools and...