People For the American Way

Faith Leaders Urge Senate Action on Supreme Court Vacancy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 14, 2016

Contact: Laura Epstein or Drew Courtney at People For the American Way

Email: media@pfaw.org

Phone Number: 202-467-4999

With the Senate Judiciary Committee holding its last business meeting until the Senate comes back to work in September with no action on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, faith leaders held a press call today announcing release of a statement calling on senators to end their obstruction.  The statement, which can be read below, is signed by over 40 national and state religious organizations representing a diverse group of faith traditions and beliefs and is being delivered today to Senate leadership. 

Key statements from today’s press call announcing the letter:

Harsh Voruganti, Esq., Executive Council Member, Hindu American Foundation:

“As faith leaders, we expect better from our Senators. We expect our Senators to fulfill their constitutional obligation to give fair consideration to the President’s nominee.  This means that the nominee should receive a prompt hearing, and a timely up or down vote, regardless of the party of the appointing President, or who controls the Senate.”

Nancy K. Kaufman, CEO, National Council of Jewish Women:

“Every aspect of our lives and the character of our democracy is impacted by judicial vacancies, none more so than the current vacancy on the Supreme Court.

“For those of us who increasingly depend on the court to protect our religious freedom and our rights as women, the ongoing vacancy is disastrous. That’s why people of faith, including NCJW, are mobilizing like never before to hold senators accountable to do their job.”

Minister Leslie Watson Malachi, Director of African American Religious Affairs, People For the American Way:

“Courts matter. As an African American woman, someone who has been involved in civil rights and civic engagement for over 30 years, the communities I am a part of have relied on the Supreme Court time and time again to protect our voting rights, our reproductive rights, and our fundamental rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

“I believe that the 2300 members of the African American Ministers Leadership Council, and all voters in this country, sent folks to the Senate to do what’s right, and not necessarily what’s easy. Yet this morning, during the last Senate Judiciary Committee executive committee meeting until September, the Senate again failed to do its job, which is to do what’s right – give fair consideration to Judge Garland – and stop doing what’s easy – being divisive and nonproductive on this critical issue.”

Rabbi Michael Namath, Program Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism:

“Pursuing justice means demanding a system of justice that provides equal protection and equal access for all. In setting up the Jewish people’s first judicial system, Jethro taught, ‘Judge the people at all seasons’ (Exodus 18:22). This text reminds us today that judgement must happen in all seasons, in all presidencies and in all congresses in order for our democracy to function and protect our constitutional rights.

Rev. Aundreia Alexander, Esq., Associate General Secretary, National Council of Churches: 

“The faith community holds views that are as far right as one can go, and equally extreme on the proverbial political left, but at our core are common values that affirm love, grace, mercy and the intrinsic value of all life.  One of our roles in society is to serve as a moral compass within the public square, and to call our leaders to account when they act in ways that are unfair or are self-serving.  Christian leaders have a responsibility to care for the holistic needs of the community as well as to speak truth to power and hold the 3 branches of government accountable. 

“The Supreme Court is the ultimate arbiter and interpreter of laws that are of vital importance to people of faith including immigration, voting, health care, etc. The plight of individual lives and society at large is too important for these issues to not be given the comprehensive examination and review that a fully functioning court provides. Therefore, as faith leaders in the United States, we declare that it is a moral imperative that the Supreme Court vacancy be filled.”

Interfaith Moral Message on US Supreme Court Vacancy

On behalf of our groups, representing a diverse group of faith traditions and beliefs, we urge the Senate to fulfill its constitutional responsibility and hold a swift hearing and vote on US Supreme Court nominee Judge Merrick Garland.

The constitution clearly assigns the Senate a crucial role in the judicial nominations process when it states that the President, “By and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint…Judges of the Supreme Court.” While many of our groups do not take positions on individual nominees, we stand united in our belief that the Senate’s duties regarding Supreme Court vacancies ought to be carried out in a timely fashion. The Senate’s ongoing delay in fulfilling this responsibility threatens the ability of our government to operate at full capacity and undermines our nation’s commitment to the pursuit of justice and democracy.

The 2015-2016 US Supreme Court term demonstrated the urgency of ensuring a full bench when a new term begins in October. The Court’s decisions have a major impact on core issues of American life, from healthcare to education to immigration and more. Only with a nine member Court can the split decisions that we saw this year be avoided and clear direction be provided.

We urge you to uphold your constitutional responsibility and expeditiously act on Judge Garland’s nomination by supporting confirmation hearings and a Senate floor vote.

Signatories,

National Organizations
African American Ministers Leadership Council
Anti-Defamation League
Bend the Arc Jewish Action
Central Conference of American Rabbis
DignityUSA
Franciscan Action Network
Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement
Hindu American Foundation
Individual Citizen of Gospel Peace
Interfaith Alliance
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Leadership Conference of Women Religious
National Council of Churches
National Council of Jewish Women
The Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association
Reconstructionist Rabbinical College/Jewish Reconstructionist Communities
Sadhana
The Shamayim V'Aretz Institute
Women of Reform Judaism
Union for Reform Judaism
Unitarian Universalist Association
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
Uri L'Tzedek

State/ Local Organizations
Courts Matter (Illinois)
Franciscans Sisters of Mary (Maine)
Hadassah, New Orleans (Louisiana)
The Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action (Massachusetts)
Jewish Community Relations Council of New Haven (Connecticut)
Jewish Federation of Greater Santa Barbara (California)
JPIC Committee of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia (Pennsylvania)
The Imani Group, Inc. (South Carolina)
National Council of Jewish Women, Arizona Section (Arizona)
National Council of Jewish Women, Bergen County Section (New Jersey)
National Council of Jewish Women, California (California)
National Council of Jewish Women, Florida (Florida)
National Council of Jewish Women, Greater New Orleans Section (Louisiana)
National Council of Jewish Women Illinois State Policy Advocacy Network (Illinois)
National Council of Jewish Women, Long Beach (California)
National Council of Jewish Women, Los Angeles (California)
National Council of Jewish Women, Minnesota (Minnesota)
National Council of Jewish Women, New York (New York)
National Council of Jewish Women, Seattle Section (Washington)
National Council of Jewish Women, St. Louis (Missouri)
Ohio Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (Ohio)
SisterReach (Tennessee)
Temple Sinai (Louisiana)
Total Community Action, Inc. (Louisiana)

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