Key Question: Whether she will lay her political beliefs aside when she is deciding cases and decide those cases strictly based upon facts and the law of the case – Senator Jon Kyl
As the Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings of U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan draw near, the Senate Judiciary Committee (as well as the larger body of American citizenry) prepares to hear Kagan explain and defend her views on the full spectrum of American legal and social issues. Among the hot-button issues is one that is all too often overlooked: religious freedom.
Recently, Interfaith Alliance submitted list of questions on religious freedom to the Senate Judiciary Committee with the request that they be asked of Solicitor General Kagan during the hearings. Two struck me as especially important in today’s political climate:
- What role, if any, does your religious faith play in your judicial philosophy?
- Does the Internal Revenue Service have the legal and constitutional authority to revoke a house of worship’s tax-exempt status if that house of worship has engaged in improper political activities, such as making an official endorsement of a political candidate?
The first question, while very practical, also represents a level of respect and decorum with regard to Solicitor General Kagan and her personal views. It is important to know how she thinks of her own faith and how she sees that manifesting itself in her decision-making. Though her specific religious affiliation is unimportant, this question provides her the opportunity to defend her own right to religious freedom, and her integrity as a student of law.
Interfaith Alliance also joined the Religious Action Center (and 19 other organizations concerned with the preservation of the boundaries between institutions of religion and government) in submitting additional questions. Though the questions address the same general topics, they are slightly different in their rhetoric. For the full text of our coalition’s letter, please click here.
Among the topics raised is the issue of Elena Kagan’s personal understanding of both the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses of the First Amendment and the issue of government funding of faith-based social service providers. This line of questioning stems in part from comments she made during her Confirmation Hearing for Solicitor General, where she referred to religious organizations as “different” with regard to government funding (as cited in the coalition letter).
These are the types of issues that Elena Kagan will undoubtedly face should she be confirmed to the United States Supreme Court. I hope that the Senate Judiciary Committee will recognize the importance of the debate over religious freedom in the coming weeks.