For Immediate Release
(Washington, D.C., July 13, 2009) The American Humanist Association is calling on the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to inquire into Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s judicial philosophy on issues of religious liberty and separation of church and state during her confirmation hearings, which begin today.
The national humanist organization sent a letter to the 19 senators in the committee, highlighting the importance of Judge Sotomayor’s nomination with regards to the separation of church and state given that she is replacing Justice David Souter, who has a strong record on church-state separation issues. The letter also recommends specific questions to ask Judge Sotomayor during her confirmation hearings.
The text of the letter sent to Senator Patrick Leahy, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, appears below. Similar letters were sent to the other committee members.
July 13, 2009
The Honorable Patrick Leahy
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Mr. Chairman:
The nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the United States Supreme Court is of particular importance to those committed to protecting the Constitutional right of religious freedom and the separation of church and state. The U.S. Supreme Court is often closely divided on issues of religion and government—particularly so on opinions involving the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Judge Sotomayor will be critical to the Court’s future direction on these issues as she will be replacing Justice David Souter, who has a strong record of authoring decisions that proscribe government entanglement with religion and protect freedom of conscience. We believe it is of utmost importance that Judge Sotomayor share Justice Souter’s respect for the separation of church and state and religious liberty.
Judge Sotomayor’s judicial record has indicated thoughtful consideration of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, particularly demonstrated in the cases such as Ford v. McGinnis and Campos v. Coughlin, where she has ruled that judicial consideration must be weighted in an individual’s understanding of his or her own faith and that a belief need not be reasonable or mainstream to be protected. However, her record on Establishment Clause issues is not established. Thus, we urge the Senate Judiciary Committee to ask Judge Sotomayor the following questions about her judicial philosophy on church-state issues:
1. Does the First Amendment require government neutrality between religion and non-religion?
2. Should religious organizations be permitted to receive federal funding through Charitable Choice and the Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnership if any portion of the funding is used for religious activity, proselytizing or capacity building?
3. Can religious organizations that receive federal funding exercise employment discrimination based on religious belief when hiring for taxpayer-funded positions?
4. Does the Establishment Clause prohibit the government from sponsoring religious messages through its display of religious symbols on public property?
5. Is the government permitted to make official acknowledgments of religion, such as through the Pledge of Allegiance, national motto, and national religiously-themed holiday observances?
We greatly appreciate your attention to these questions and your concern for the issues of religious freedom as you proceed with these important confirmation hearings.
American Humanist Association
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The American Humanist Association (www.americanhumanist.org) advocates for the rights and viewpoints of humanists. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., its work is extended through more than 100 local chapters and affiliates across America.
Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism, affirms our responsibility to lead ethical lives of value to self and humanity.