Sotomayor Has Mixed Record On Church-State Disputes

July 14, 2009

Author: Adelle M. Banks

Source: Religion News Service

As a federal judge, Sonia Sotomayor sided with Santeria prisoners who wanted to wear religious beads and Muslim inmates who wanted to break the fast during the holy month of Ramadan.

At the same time, she ruled against Muslims who wanted a Muslim crescent and star added to post office holiday displays that featured Christmas and Hanukkah symbols.

As the Senate holds confirmation hearings on the woman who hopes to be the newest member of the U.S. Supreme Court, experts who monitor church-state cases say -- as on other matters -- that Sotomayor's past decisions indicate that she's hard to pigeonhole.

"They're certainly not totally predictable in terms of her siding with one side or another," said Howard M. Friedman, a retired law professor at the University of Toledo, whose Religion Clause blog tracks church-state legal developments. "She looks pretty carefully at all the facts."

Church-state legal groups, including Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Baptist Joint Committee, have issued legal analyses of Sotomayor's lower court decisions as they seek clues to how she might rule if confirmed to the nation's highest court.