Letters to the Editor: Neil Gorsuch’s ‘sincere beliefs’ standard is a Pandora’s Box

Supreme Court Justice Neil M. Gorsuch in 2017.
(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

To the editor: In weighing Catholic school administrators’ alleged denials of civil rights protections to two teachers, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil M. Gorsuch posited the usual pious conservative precept: Courts should not question “any sincerely held religious belief.”

Yet the high court never seems to articulate how such professed sincerity might reliably be gauged.

I have heard people confess that though lifelong agnostics, they had posed as religious adherents for a few decades. Why? Solely to induce preferred behaviors in their children.

My question for Gorsuch: Does an earnest desire to be viewed as sincerely holding religious beliefs suffice to constitute the requisite sincerity? Asking for an agnostic friend — plus, I can think of a preeminent politician who may want to know.


Sarah S. Williams, Santa Barbara


To the editor: If Gorsuch equally weights “any sincerely held religious belief,” will we see the growth of what I might call “liberty churches” that recognize only the “sincerely held” beliefs of their founders?

Will we see the Church of Bob the Mechanic? How about Our Lady of Downtown Thousand Oaks? And will these sincere churches be able to claim tax exemption?

If this over-broad definition of protected religious activity stands, who will stop those who simply object to paying taxes from declaring themselves as churches?

Barry Davis, Agoura Hills