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Sotomayor vote near; ERLC urges ‘no’

WASHINGTON (BP)–The U.S. Senate is expected to vote on the confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor as a Supreme Court justice before it leaves Friday for a month-long recess, and the Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy agency has again called for defeat of the nominee.

It appears Sotomayor, who would be the first Hispanic and only the third woman on the high court, has plenty of votes for confirmation. In addition to expected support from the Senate’s 60 Democratic members, six Republicans have said they will vote for her confirmation and seven others have not announced a decision, according to a Tuesday report by the Family Research Council (FRC). Twenty-seven of the chamber’s 40 Republicans have said they will oppose her, FRC reported.

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) distributed an e-mail alert Monday calling for constituents to urge their senators to vote against Sotomayor’s confirmation.

“Despite her compelling personal story, we remain unconvinced that Judge Sotomayor would apply the law with blind justice as required by the Constitution,” ERLC President Richard Land said in the e-mail. “There are simply too many alarming rulings from her time as a lower court judge — from discriminating on the basis of race to achieve a predetermined racial outcome to censoring a pastor’s religious expression of Bible verses on a billboard to denying private property rights in two significant cases.

“And there are too many questions left unanswered — such as what role she played as a board member and vice president and chair of the litigation committee of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, which filed briefs in at least six prominent court cases in support of abortion rights during her time with the group.

“Simply put, she is out of the mainstream of the American public and too often of the very court for which she is being considered,” Land said.

The ERLC had indicated its opposition to Sotomayor’s confirmation after an analysis of her record and reiterated it in a letter to the Judiciary Committee July 28, the day the panel voted 13-6 to send her nomination to the full Senate.

A judge on the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals, Sotomayor is President Obama’s first nominee to the Supreme Court.

Judiciary Committee members, especially Republicans, questioned Sotomayor about her views on such controversial social issues as abortion and “same-sex marriage” during her July 13-16 confirmation hearing, but the nominee offered little in her answers to indicate how she would vote in such cases.

On Roe, she said the 1973 decision was “settled,” an answer that differed little from that given by even some conservative nominees in the past. Regarding “gay marriage,” Sotomayor said she had not prejudged the issue and would not allow her personal viewpoint to determine her decision.

Sotomayor has not ruled directly on abortion, but there is a general assumption by pro-life advocates that she is pro-choice. That exists not only because of her past statements regarding judicial philosophy but because she was nominated by a president who endorses abortion rights and because she is supported by pro-choice senators who have met with her privately.

The six Republicans who have said they will vote for Sotomayor’s confirmation, according to FRC, are Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Susan Collins of Maine, Richard Lugar of Indiana, Mel Martinez of Florida, Olympia Snow of Maine and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

Sotomayor, who grew up in a South Bronx housing project, joined the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which is based in New York City, in 1998 as a nominee of President Clinton. President George H.W. Bush nominated her as a federal judge, and she was confirmed to that post in 1992.
Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press with reporting by Michael Foust, assistant editor of Baptist Press.

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