Beth Robinson: A Track Record of Disdain for Religious Freedom

October 29, 2021

Yesterday, the Senate voted 51-36 to advance the nomination of Beth Robinson to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The confirmation vote will likely take place next week. Robinson is currently serving as an associate justice on the Vermont Supreme Court and was a counsel to former Gov. Peter Shumlin (D-Vt.).

Those eager to confirm the first female judge to openly identify as homosexual to a federal circuit court are sadly overlooking Robinson's track record of anti-Catholic advocacy and dubious ability to properly handle religious freedom cases. Senators like Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who voted to advance her nomination yesterday, should know that Robinson will not faithfully and objectively rule on fundamental freedoms in the years ahead. Any senator who values the rule of law and the freedoms of speech, religion, and conscience should oppose her upcoming confirmation vote to serve on a judiciary that is supposed to be objective and unbiased.

During her confirmation hearing, Senators Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) brought Robinson's attacks on religious freedom to light. The senators questioned Robinson's decision (while in private practice) to represent Linda Paquette, a woman who had wanted to order membership cards for Vermont Catholics for Choice from a local print shop. The pro-life shop owners, the Bakers, were Catholic and refused to complete the order because they believed Catholics could not support abortion.

The Bakers were correct that the Catechism of the Catholic Church unequivocally condemns abortion, stating, "Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable." The Catechism goes on to state that "formal cooperation in abortion constitutes a grave offense" and contends that the law must provide protection for the unborn child.

Robinson, however, wrote a legal brief condemning the shop owners for what she called their "invidious" and "pernicious" pro-life beliefs, claiming that they were discriminating against the Catholic woman attempting to advocate for abortion (again, a position inconsistent with Catholic teaching).

Printing the membership cards would have violated not only the Bakers' pro-life principles but also their sincerely-held religious beliefs that Catholics must act in accordance with the teachings of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Robinson equated the Bakers' adherence to the Catechism to "racial discrimination," clearly demonstrating her condemnation of practicing religious people.

In a nation where 65 percent of adults say they are Christian, there is no room for a judge who elevates her personal policy agenda above the peoples' freedom to live out their religious beliefs. In light of Robinson's judicial legacy of denying religious citizens the equality to live according to their own convictions, it is ironic that Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) recently claimed, "Beth helped Vermont and America to fully realize the meaning of equality under the law."

President Biden's nomination of Robinson comes as no surprise, given his own history of ignoring the teachings of his religion to suit his political agenda.

Although Biden has long claimed membership in the Catholic faith, his abortion extremism and advocacy for issues contrary to Catholic teachings have caused many to argue that the president has excommunicated himself and should no longer receive the Eucharist. When asked about it, Biden responded, "That's a private matter..."

The president's belief that religious participation is strictly a "private matter" is exactly the problem. As activists of anti-religious sentiment continuously push their way to the forefront of the political sphere, religious people are expected to shrink back and conform. Religious participation is now only accepted as a "private matter," while people of faith are forced to publicly violate their beliefs.

In order for America to protect religious freedom, judicial activists like Beth Robinson must be blocked from holding lifetime appointments to federal circuit courts. Robinson has demonstrated her unreserved willingness to determine in what manner citizens are permitted to practice their religion—a matter that goes beyond policy to the very core of what it means to be human.

Our Founding Fathers recognized this, which is why James Madison, principal author of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, expressed, "The Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate."

Beth Robinson's record is out of line with the very Constitution she would be tasked with administering justice under. She should not be confirmed to a position where she could exchange the Founding Fathers' vision of religious freedom for her own.