During his 12-year tenure on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, Judge Kavanaugh had few chances to weigh in on matters of religious freedom, leaving us concerned about what to expect of his confirmation. Our main concern was, as always, to ensure that every newly confirmed member of the Supreme Court is a champion for true religious freedom.
Even as we combed through his writings and past statements, we did not anticipate the deeply fraught nomination process that would ensue.
Interfaith Alliance has not historically taken a position on any candidate for office. Religious freedom is not a partisan concept and we are of the firm belief that speaking in the name of faith on such decisions is contrary to our mission. We approached Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination as we would any other – with sincere questions about his judicial record and understanding of the role of the court.
How would he balance America’s guarantee of religious freedom with the protection of equal rights for all? How would he maintain the progress we’ve seen in recent years to strike religious bigotry from our laws? And how would he ensure that no religious or racial minority is ever subject to discrimination, unjust scrutiny, and exclusion from the rights and freedoms of American citizenship?
A thorough and timely vetting process ensures that each judicial nominee bears an abiding commitment to the Constitution and a determination to respect the inherent rights of every citizen. Every nominee deserves an opportunity to answer these questions and more — but first, they must be asked. The Senate has the obligation and duty to thoroughly question all potential justices on these issues. Interfaith Alliance asked the Senate to pose these 5 questions.
What does Judge Kavanaugh’s record tell us about his views on key religious freedom issues? Our one pager, Kavanaugh on Religious Freedom, explores his statements on the “wall of separation” metaphor, freedom from religious coercion in the workplace, school voucher programs, and prayer in public schools.
We joined with 37 national faith-based, nontheist, and religious liberty organizations that share genuine concerns about the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to be the next Supreme Court justice, written before he appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Read the letter to Senators.
HEARINGS AND ALLEGATIONS
The Senate Judiciary Committee held confirmation hearings on September 4-7, 2018. Senators asked Judge Kavanaugh pointed questions about religious freedom, but his answers left us with lingering concerns about his commitment to ensuring that people of all faiths and of none are treated equally before the law. We shared these concerns with the Judiciary Committee on September 12, as they began the official markup of Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination.
Following his confirmation hearings, a series of allegations of serious misconduct by Judge Kavanaugh emerged. On September 27, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testified before the Judiciary Committee about a sexual assault she said that he committed against her in high school. Judge Kavanaugh then offered a heated response, including claims of partisan revenge and repeated misrepresentations. After the FBI completed an investigation into Dr. Ford’s allegations, we concluded that, regardless of their veracity, Judge Kavanaugh’s conduct throughout the nomination process raised insurmountable questions about his impartiality in future cases.
For the first time in our history, we called on a nominee to remove himself from consideration. Rabbi Jack Moline explained, “We cannot support the confirmation of a Supreme Court Justice who has demonstrated a pattern of playing fast and loose with the truth for his own benefit.”
Judge Kavanaugh was later confirmed in the U.S. Senate by one of the slimmest vote margins of any Supreme Court Justice, 50 – 48, on October 6, 2018. Following his swearing in, Rabbi Moline said, “We remain extremely concerned about his demonstrated temperament, judgment, and, unfortunately, honesty….As he begins his appointment, Justice Kavanaugh has the extra burden of proving that he deserves the seat and that he can be the impartial judge he claims to be.”