Washington, DC, June 25, 2010
The American Humanist Association sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee today urging the committee to question Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan about her views on religious freedom and separation of church and state. Kagan’s confirmation hearings are scheduled to begin on Monday.
“In particular, Kagan should be questioned on whether religious acknowledgements by government and religious symbols on government property violate the principle of government neutrality in matters of
religion, as well as whether employment discrimination by faith-based groups in programs funded by government grants violate employment nondiscrimination laws,” said Bob Ritter, attorney for the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, legal arm of the American Humanist Association. “Ultimately, it’s unjust to exclude individuals from basic economic, civic and political opportunities of our society on the basis of religion or nonreligion, and it’s important that Kagan acknowledge that those that don’t believe in God should be protected just as any individual who is religious.”
The letter, which was sent to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Senator Patrick Leahy and ranking minority member Senator Jeff Sessions, is below.
June 24, 2010
Dear Chairman Leahy and Ranking Member Sessions,
I am writing to urge you to question Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan on her views on the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution during her confirmation hearings. Kagan’s views on these matters remain relatively unknown, and obtaining more information regarding her stance on this issue is crucial before showing support. The following questions can provide answers to her judicial philosophy and fidelity to the Constitution:
1. Based on your understanding of American history and the proposals for a Bill of Rights in the First Congress, does the First Amendment embody the Jeffersonian principle of separation of church and state?
2. Does the neutrality principle often mentioned in Supreme Court Establishment Clause cases protect religious minorities and atheists, or do you subscribe to Justice Scalia’s view that the First Amendment
only protects monotheists?
3. In your opinion, does “under God” in the Pledge, “In God We Trust” as the U.S. motto and other so-called acknowledgments that prefer monotheism over other religions and nonbelief violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?
4. May religious organizations receiving government grants discriminate in hiring against atheists and gays?
5. Some critics have suggested that the Van Orden v. Perry and Salazar v. Buono cases have allowed religious displays on public property by contriving “secular purposes” for the displays that are not valid. What do you think of these cases, and do you feel that the “secular purposes” claimed in those cases are valid?
Thank you for your time and consideration.
President, American Humanist Association
Executive Director, American Humanist Association
Legal Coordinator and Staff Attorney, Appignani Humanist Legal Center
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 the idea that you can be good without a belief in God.