IFAS | Freedom Writer | June/July 1991 | thomas.html

Clarence Thomas on church and state

From the moment President Bush introduced his nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court to replace retiring Associate Justice Thurgood Marshall, Clarence Thomas has been under fire. While standing next to the president at a Kennebunkport press conference, Thomas expressed appreciation to all those who helped him along the way, including "the nuns." He was referring to the Irish nuns at St. Benedict the Moor Catholic School, the school Thomas attended as a youth. While mention of the nuns itself isn't necessarily a cause for concern, Thomas has made statements related to the separation of church and state which are of great concern.

As a participant in a forum sponsored by the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation in 1985, Judge Thomas was asked about his thoughts on school prayer. He replied, "My mother says that when they took God out of the schools the schools went to hell. She m ay be right." "Religion," he added, "is certainly a source of positive values, and we need as many positive values in the schools as we can get."

In a June 1987 speech before the Heritage Foundation, Thomas praised an essay by Lew Lehrman, printed in the April 1987 issue of the American Spectator. Lehrman, an ultra-conservative who once ran for governor of New York, described abortion as a h olocaust. The essay, which Thomas praised, further argued that a fetus has an inalienable right to life, and that the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision was immoral and that it violated natural law.

Judge Thomas attends the 3,000-member Truro Episcopal Church, in Fairfax, Virginia, with his wife Virginia. The Truro church is known for its support of the anti-abortion movement (through its activities with the National Organization of Episcopalians for Life or NOEL), and for its participation in the charismatic movement, whose adherents speak in tongues and offer divine prophecies.

Truro is also part of the controversial "shepherding" movement, which places emphasis on lines of authority. In shepherding, churches are split into cells, with each cell overseen by a pastor/shepherd who is a disciple of and under the authority of the ch urch's senior pastor. In some churches, people have submitted excessively to the authority of their cell's shepherd, and have relied on his judgment to help make critical decisions in their personal lives. It is believed that the Truro church has at least thirty-six cells, or shepherding groups.

With these and many other issues in question, Clarence Thomas's nomination hearings will be heated indeed.

© 1998 Institute for First Amendment Studies, Inc.