The FFRF Action Fund, the legislative advocacy arm of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, commends the Senate Judiciary Committee for approving S. 359, the Supreme Court Ethics Recusal and Transparency Act (SCERT) by a vote of 11 to 10. All of the committee Democrats voted favorably for this urgently-overdue measure. The bill now heads to the Senate floor. FFRF Action Fund urges all senators to cosponsor the bill, then pass it out of the chamber as quickly as possible.
SCERT mandates, for liberal and conservative justices alike, the disclosure of financial ties, requires the justices to publicly provide reasons for recusal in cases involving potential conflicts of interest, establishes an ethical code of conduct for Supreme Court justices, and promotes transparency to safeguard the integrity and impartiality of the judicial system.
The bill received significant support from Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), the bill’s primary sponsor, and Dick Durbin (Ill.), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who played instrumental roles in advancing the bill. We extend our gratitude to Reps. Hank Johnson, a member of the Congressional Freethought Caucus, for his leadership as the primary sponsor of the House companion bill. All of the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee are cosponsors of the bill and none of the Republicans signed on.
“The Senate Judiciary Committee’s progress on SCERT is a commendable step toward ensuring the integrity and fairness of the Supreme Court, and the Senate Democratic majority is taking concrete steps to rein in the Supreme Court, a coequal branch of government that has run amok,” says Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF Action Fund Board President. SCERT is a clear response to the overwhelming scandals brought by ethics concerns over Justice Alito, Justice Thomas, Ginni Thomas, Jane Roberts, and Martha Bomgardner Alito. Most recently, Associated Press reported on repeated examples of taxpayer-funded court staff performing tasks for Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s book ventures, which workers in other branches of government are barred from doing.
FFRF Action Fund and FFRF have been extremely active in advocating for this bill. Recently we joined several allied organizations from the Unrig the Courts Coalition, which is dedicated to reforming and restoring balance to the Supreme Court, in an organizational sign-on letter to Chair Durbin supporting the bill and urging the committee to mark up and report out the bill. Rep. Johnson discussed this bill and his ideas for court expansion on an episode of Freethought Matters. We have also sent out numerous action alerts on SCERT, discussed the bill on several episodes of Ask an Atheist, put SCERT into our new Dynamic Scorecard as one of the required sponsorships to net a perfect score, met with dozens of Congressional offices about the bill, and were mentioned in congressional press releases.
SCERT serves as a beacon of hope for upholding fundamental principles of democracy. It provides a necessary framework to address the growing concerns surrounding ethics, transparency and accountability within the Supreme Court, which is crucial for preserving the integrity of our justice system and maintaining public trust.
For more information on SCERT and to join our efforts, please visit the FFRF Action Fund website. Together, we can ensure the integrity and fairness of our judicial system.
FFRF Action Fund is a 501(c)(4) organization that develops and advocates for legislation, regulations and government programs to preserve the constitutional principle of separation between state and church. It also advocates for the rights and views of nonbelievers, endorses candidates for political office, and publicizes the views of elected officials concerning religious liberty issues. FFRF Action Fund serves as the advocacy arm of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which has more than 40,000 members and works to keep religion out of government and educate the public about nontheism.