The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

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

Senate Committee Should Question Elena Kagan on Issues Relating to Church-State Separation, Says Americans United

Watchdog Group Calls On Judiciary Committee Members to Ascertain Nominee’s Views on Key Religious Liberty Issues


Americans United for Separation of Church and State today called on
the Senate Judiciary Committee to question Supreme Court nominee Elena
Kagan on her views concerning a range of church-state issues.

President Barack Obama today announced the nomination of Kagan,
currently U.S. solicitor general, to the high court. Since Kagan has not
been a judge, she lacks a clear record on church-state separation

"We simply don't know much about Elena Kagan's views on church-state
separation," said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United.
"It's the job of the Senate Judiciary Committee to fill in the picture
by asking her questions about how religion and government should

As solicitor general, Kagan argued a church-state case before the
Supreme Court this term, defending a federal statute designed to
preserve a cross erected on federal land in California. However, the
Justice Department inherited that case, Salazar v. Buono, from
the previous Bush administration.

In 1987, while serving as a clerk for Justice Thurgood Marshall,
Kagan wrote a memo adopting a separationist viewpoint and stating that
religious groups should not be able to receive public funding for
certain secular activities. During her confirmation hearings for
solicitor general, however, she distanced herself from that analysis,
calling it "deeply mistaken" and "utterly wrong."

Said Lynn, "The Supreme Court is deeply divided over issues such as
tax funding of religion, the role of religion in public life and the
limits of religious freedom. We urge the U.S. Senate to ascertain
Kagan's basic judicial philosophy in an area that is crucial to so many

Lynn added that this is especially important because Kagan would
replace Justice John Paul Stevens, a strong supporter of separation of
church and state.

"Justice Stevens understood why our nation needs a high and firm wall
of separation between church and state," Lynn said. "His replacement
should too."

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.