Sotomayor’s Nomination

Let The Senate Do Its Job And Ask Good Questions

When President Barack Obama nominated federal appeals court judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, Americans United immediately began researching her background.

We learned that Sotomayor’s church-state file is rather slim. In light of that, we decided that the prudent thing to do is to remain neutral on her confirmation and actively review her record as new documents and speeches are revealed almost every day. We are also working to make sure Sotomayor is asked to explain her church-state philosophy to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

AU’s Legislative Department is working with the staffs of several senators who serve on that committee. Our aim is to get a series of questions about church-state separation into the hands of committee members, who can ask Sotomayor to address them.

We’re hopeful for a useful exchange that sheds light on where Sotomayor stands on this important issue. The Senate has an obligation to “advise and consent” on judicial nominees, and AU is asking senators to fulfill that role conscientiously. We respect the process and will work within it.

Contrast that with what the Religious Right has been doing. Organizational Web sites are full of attacks on Sotomayor, often based on the flimsiest grounds. Newt Gingrich went so far as to send an e-mail “tweet” to his supporters, insisting that Sotomayor is a racist.

Other Religious Right leaders have asserted that Sotomayor is a liberal extremist, that she’s not very bright or that she’s not ready for the high court.

There is no evidence for these charges, and the groups that are making them ought to be ashamed. Sotomayor served six years on a U.S. District Court and 11 years on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Her rulings demonstrate plenty of intellectual heft.

The fact is, the Religious Right doesn’t care for Sotomayor because she was nominated by Obama – a man they intensely dislike. These groups hope to mobilize their supporters and raise money through a volley of crude attacks.

Americans should ignore them.

There is a mechanism in place for determining the fitness of Supreme Court nominees. AU will provide input into that process and hope that it is successful. We’d like to hear Sotomayor strongly affirm the separation of church and state during the hearings.

Gingrich and his Religious Right allies have done nothing but engage in mud-slinging. Since they have nothing constructive to add, it would be best if they simply went away.