Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to begin hearings this Monday
to examine the qualifications of President Obama's first Supreme
Court nominee, federal jurist Sonia Sotomayor. Sotomayor currently
serves on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a position she has
held since 1998. Prior to that, Sotomayor served as a federal judge
for the Southern District of New York for eight years.
Sotomayor's extensive prior experience on the federal bench, Rev.
Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation
of Church and State is calling on the members of the judiciary
committee to question Sotomayor on issues relating to religious
liberty and church-state separation. "If confirmed, Sotomayor will
take the place of Justice David Souter, one of the strongest
defenders of church-state separation ever to sit on the high court,"
Lynn remarked. "It is imperative that Souter's replacement adopt
the same robust defense of the church-state wall."
judicial record includes a number of rulings in areas such as
prisoners' religious liberty rights, the display of religious
symbols on public property and teacher-led prayer in public schools.
However, "Sotomayor's church-state rulings are few in number,"
said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, adding, "we need more information, and
we're relying on the Judiciary Committee to get it."
Barry W. Lynn questions Sotomayor's judicial philosophy, specifically
as relating to issues involving the interaction between church and
state. Among them are:
she think the First Amendment builds a "wall of separation between
church and state," as proclaimed by Thomas Jefferson and recognized
by the Supreme Court?
is the nominee's view of the leading legal tests for determining
church-state violations? and
Sotomayor believe that government can extend tax funding to religious
entities and, if so, under what conditions?
Lynn said it is important that the committee question Sotomayor closely on these and other church-state matters. Americans United, he said, has taken no position on Sotomayor's nomination.