Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Positive Ratings For Sotomayor by Prominent Church-State Group (updated)

Today, several prominent groups offered their reviews on the qualifications of Judge Sonia Sotomayor, the nominee for the Supreme Court. First, the American Bar Association (ABA), in a unanimous opinion, rated Sotomayor as "well qualified," their highest possible rating.

While the ABA's rating is important indeed, personally, I am more concerned with another group's opinion. The Baptist Joint Committee (BJC), a prominent organization for the separation of church and state, also offered their review of Sotomayor. Basically, while there isn't an abundance of her opinions on the subject to sort through - there is not a complete picture - the BJC generally likes what they see:
While Sotomayor’s written record raises no red flags, it also fails to provide complete assurance to those who are most concerned about our fragile religious freedom rights. In the free exercise cases, she displays careful attention to protecting religious rights, including in prisons where courts generally give deference to government officials. Likewise, these cases demonstrate an emphasis on the importance of assessing the individual’s specific religious claim. This approach illustrates an expansive view of religious freedom that does not depend on the approval of the majority. Her religious display cases demonstrate the fact-sensitive nature of such disputes, but tell us little about where she would draw the line between permissible acknowledgements of religion and unconstitutional displays that send a message of endorsement of religion by the government. Beyond those cases, her record gives little indication of her views of the Supreme Court’s various Establishment Clause standards or how she is likely to decide such cases.

Sotomayor’s writings include few if any statements articulating how the First Amendment protects religious liberty, promotes the voluntary nature of religion, prevents governmental interference in religion and tends to reduce conflict among religions. Still, her record offers positive signs that she will be a thoughtful, fair-minded jurist in protecting religious freedom. (emphasis mine)
Two esteemed organizations, two positive reviews. Count me convinced.

Update: The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission believes that Sotomayor will "redefine the law":
"After carefully examining her record as a lower court judge, we believe that Sotomayor should not be confirmed to serve on the nation’s highest court," Land said in the e-mail. "Sonia Sotomayor’s record reveals that she is perfectly willing to lift the blindfold of justice to achieve her desired result. She is a judge with a terribly flawed view of the judicial system at best or a judge who simply doesn’t care what the law says at worst. She has constantly shown her lack of deference to the Constitution. She is the type of justice who instead of applying the law neutrally will redefine the law to conform to her policy preferences."
So, two organizations for religious liberty, two opposing view points.

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