Monday, July 06, 2009

BJC Publishes Analysis of Sotomayor's Religion Decisions

The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty has published a new report evaluating the free exercise and establishment clause opinions written by Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor (download of full text). It concludes:
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.
[Thanks to Don Byrd for the lead.]