The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: (202) 466-3234,Joe Conn,Rob Boston,Sandhya Bathija

Americans United Urges Senate Judiciary Committee to Ascertain Sotomayor's Views on Church-State Separation


Americans United for Separation of Church and State today reiterated
its call for the Senate Judiciary Committee to question Supreme Court
nominee Sonia Sotomayor on issues relating to religious liberty and
church-state separation.

The committee is scheduled to begin hearings on Sotomayor on Monday. In advance of that, Americans United has released a report listing Sotomayor's rulings on church-state issues.

"Sotomayor's church-state rulings are few in number," said the Rev.
Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "We need more
information, and we're relying on the Judiciary Committee to get it."

AU's examination of Sotomayor's record found rulings in areas such
as prisoners' religious liberty rights, the display of religious
symbols on public property and teacher-led prayer in public schools.

Americans United has asked Judiciary Committee members to question
Sotomayor on several overarching points to better determine her
church-state philosophy. Among them are:

  • Does 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?
  • What is the nominee's view of the leading legal tests for determining church-state violations?
  • Does 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.

"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

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.