This past Monday, Governor Murphy nominated Rachel Wainer Apter to become the new Associate Justice of the New Jersey State Supreme Court. She is currently the head of the civil rights division for the Attorney General’s office. Before serving in this capacity, Ms. Apter was a polarizing attorney devoted to chiseling away Constitutionally protected religious rights.

Remember the ongoing saga of Jack Phillips? He was the Colorado baker that was financially penalized by the state and publicly scrutinized by the media for not using his artistic design to celebrate a same-sex wedding. The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) legal team in that case, which included Ms. Apter, tried to infringe on Jack’s religious rights by forcing him to create religious and moral messages that violated his faith.

To put this in perspective, asking Jack to celebrate a same-sex wedding – or lose his business – is a little like asking a Jewish deli owner to make a pork roll and cheese sandwich for a customer. He is religiously bound to serve only kosher food, and his refusal to make the sandwich is not discrimination against non-Jews. He is more than glad to make a kosher plate for anyone, including gentiles, but he cannot serve non-kosher food because it would violate his conscience. Yet, using the same logic as Ms. Apter and the ACLU team in the Jack Phillips case, the Jewish deli owner should be forced to serve the pork sandwich – or have his business shut down.

Thankfully, in Jack Phillips’ case, the United States Supreme Court sided with Jack and against the religious hostility that was on display by Ms. Apter, the ACLU, and the plaintiffs she represented in the case.

Reflecting on the case, Ms. Apter has said her experience, “has given me wide exposure to many different issues of equality and discrimination and how different constitutional values can intersect.” In other words, constitutionally guaranteed religious rights will conflict with judicially created sexual rights. That’s not groundbreaking analysis, but where will she land on those types of cases if faced with them as an Associate Justice of the New Jersey State Supreme Court? Her prior legal stances are clear – including being an advocate of forcing religious institutions to pay for abortion inducing drugs.

We applaud her work in confronting sexual harassment and anti-Semitism, but her historical dismissal of fundamental religious rights should be troubling to people of faith across the Garden State. I encourage you to contact your state senator to express your concern with Rachel Wainer Apter’s nomination.

Working for a better New Jersey!

Shawn Hyland
Executive Director