From the Editor: An Open Letter to Chief Justice John Roberts

Dear Chief Justice Roberts,

I know you’re not a liberal. So, yes, it would be ridiculous to think that your siding with the more liberal justices of the Supreme Court in recent decisions was a sign you’d become one. In the Louisiana abortion case, you were merely respecting precedent. And that’s nothing to shrug at—you could’ve easily voted the same way you did in the nearly identical Texas case, putting an undue burden on women trying to exercise their constitutional right to an abortion. But you didn’t, and I thank you for that. Voting to throw a lifeline to the Dreamers and to better protect LGBTQ employees was also something this liberal appreciated. These votes reflect your keen read of the times and your humanity, and I suspect are also intended to send a clear message that you don’t march in lockstep with any party or president.

But Espinoza?

“A state need not subsidize private education,” you reasoned in the majority opinion in Espinoza v. Montana Dept. of Revenue. “But once a state decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.” Why the but? The state of Montana had reverted to your first premise when they dropped the entire scheme that gave tax credits to individuals who funded private school scholarships. This is precisely why Justice Ginsburg dissented—there was no discrimination against religious schools. Of course, defenders of the Establishment Clause also don’t like the fact that an overwhelming majority of the scholarship donors in Montana were getting a monetary reward from the government (taxpayer dollars) for funding religious private education. Regardless, I just don’t get your decision.

My daughter doesn’t either.  Last year her AP Government class did a mock SCOTUS debate of the case. She was a justice, and they voted unanimously in favor of the state of Montana.

Betsy gets it. Taking a victory lap, Education Secretary DeVos declared: “families can use taxpayer funds to choose schools that match their values and educational goals, including faith-based schools.” You can almost see her waving pom-poms while saying this.

Chief Justice Roberts, some posit you were trying to assuage voters who’ve soured on Trump but still want a conservative Supreme Court. Dejectedly, I think you were reading the times here too—assuming that Americans haven’t evolved as far on the issue of religion as on other things. The truth is, more and more people are realizing that religion, and Christianity specifically, isn’t always a source for societal good or the only source for societal good. We at the American Humanist Association see it as our mandate to continue to demonstrate this and to remind Americans what our precious Constitution enshrines.


Jennifer Bardi
Editor in Chief, the Humanist