Sotomayor Affirms Religious Liberty during Senate Judiciary Committee Hearings

Church & State, September 2009 | Go to article overview

Sotomayor Affirms Religious Liberty during Senate Judiciary Committee Hearings


Federal appeals court judge Sonia Sotomayor was confirmed for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court Aug. 6 after a 68-31 Senate vote.

Sotomayor, who becomes the 111th justice to serve on the nation's highest court, was sworn in two days later. She replaces Justice David H. Souter, who announced his retirement in May.

The vote followed a week-long series of confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee in mid July.

Sotomayor, who has served as a federal judge for 17 years, has ruled on relatively few church-state cases. In light of that, Americans United asked the Judiciary Committee to question her closely on church-state matters to determine her judicial philosophy.

Committee members, however, asked Sotomayor just a few questions about religious freedom, most of them phrased in a general way.

On July 15, U.S. Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.) asked Sotomayor about her views on freedom of religion, which he called "one of the basic principles of our Constitution."

Sotomayor responded, "[I]t is a very important and central part of our democratic society that we do give freedom of religion, the practice of religion, that the Constitution restricts the state from establishing a religion, and that we have freedom of expression in speech, as well. Those freedoms are central to our Constitution."

Sotomayor declined to elaborate further, saying that as a judge, she must decide each case according to its specific facts. …

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