Earlier this year, Congressman Hank Johnson (a Congressional Freethought Caucus member) and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse reintroduced the Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency Act (SCERT) into the 118th Congress. Last year during the 117th Congress, the bill successfully passed out of the House Judiciary Committee, pointing to the issue’s significance.
Tomorrow, constituents who care deeply for the separation of church and state will descend upon Capitol Hill for the Secular Coalition for America’s 2023 Lobby Day, where House and Senate members will meet with their constituents to listen to why the Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency Act of 2023 must have their support.
During Lobby Day, participants will also impress upon their Representatives the importance of joining the Congressional Freethought Caucus (CFC). The first of its kind, the CFC’s work is critical to ensuring a united and strong secular voice in Congress. The CFC’s mission is to: 1) promote policy that is based in reason, science, and moral values; 2) protect the separation of church and state; 3) oppose discrimination against atheists, agnostics, humanists, seekers, religious and nonreligious persons and champion the value of freedom of thought and conscience worldwide; and 4) provide a forum for members of Congress to discuss their moral frameworks, ethical values, and personal religious journeys.
If you can’t be at Lobby Day, you can still make a difference. Lobby right now from the chair you are sitting in using the Humanist Action Headquarters–it only takes a minute. Act today–urge Congress to support the Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal and Transparency Act, and, personally invite your Representative to join the Congressional Freethought Caucus.
The legitimacy of our democracy rests upon the transparency of our government and the integrity of our judicial system. Recent questions regarding the ethical practices of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) have contributed to an erosion of public trust in the justices’ neutrality. There is justified concern that cases, particularly ones pivotal to the state of human rights and civil liberties, will not be decided in an impartial manner. Unlike all other federal judges, SCOTUS justices are not subject to a formal code of ethical conduct. This hinders the ability for full transparency, accountability, and fairness in one of our country’s most important and powerful institutions.
The Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency Act would establish a code of conduct for SCOTUS justices and federal judges, as well as institute SCOTUS gift, reimbursement, and income disclosure requirements. The bill would require recusal under specified circumstances, such as if a party to a proceeding lobbied or spent substantial funds to support a judge’s or justice’s confirmation process. This legislation also imposes on justices and judges a “duty to know” their and their family’s financial interests that may be substantially affected by a case, and “duty to notify” parties of a proceeding of conditions that could require disqualification. This bill also establishes review panels for consideration of motions to disqualify, among other important changes.
Democratic institutions should function within the standards of transparency and ethics. Federal judges should be making decisions, which affect the lives and civil liberties of our communities, in an independent, impartial, nonpartisan, and informed manner, and in a way that meets the needs of all Americans–including secular Americans.
Several organizations, including the American Humanist Association, have made it clear that SCERT is critical judicial reform, and even President Biden has expressed support for federal judiciary ethics repair. Now, it’s your turn to make your voice heard. Help build support by telling your Representative and Senators to cosponsor SCERT. Take just two minutes now to reach out to your elected officials in Congress to tell them to support transparency, accountability, and fairness in our judicial system – and, tell your Representative to help protect the separation of church and state by becoming a Congressional Freethought Caucus member.
Lobby days are a wonderful opportunity to connect directly with your elected officials in Congress. Many national organizations, particularly those with a focus on civil liberty and human rights and strong grassroots bases, work hard to ensure their members can seamlessly access and have real conversations with their Representatives and Senators. The great part is, you don’t have to have previous lobby experience: it is most likely that the organization you are lobbying with will set up everything you need to make you feel confident and prepared when walking into an office on the Hill (or, a virtual office). Members of Congress want to hear directly from their constituents, so there is nothing to be afraid of. If you are interested in learning more about lobbying, check out this lobbying guide by the American Humanist Association.