It is widely believed that President Donald Trump’s judicial appointments reflected a strategy of appeasing evangelical Christians and other religious groups that favored a more conservative, Christian judiciary, and that in pursuing this strategy Trump sacrificed quality. We explore evidence for this theory by examining the biographies and credentials of Trump’s lower-court nominees and the voting records of his judicial appointments to the circuit courts in free exercise cases. We find that Trump’s appointments to the lower courts have stronger or more numerous religious affiliations and are affiliated with the Federalist Society and the National Rifle Association at unusually high rates but are no less well credentialed than other judges are. We also find that Trump’s appointments to the circuit court more frequently vote in favor of Christian plaintiffs, and less frequently vote in favor of Muslim plaintiffs, in free exercise cases than judges appointed by other Republican presidents and by Democratic presidents.

G. Mitu Gulati, Stephen J. Choi & Eric A. Posner, Trump’s Lower-Court Judges and Religion: An Initial Appraisal, Journal of Legal Studies (2024).