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Religious Action Center Transmits “Ask Judge Alito Questions” to Senate Judiciary Committee
Today, as the Senate Judiciary Committee begins hearings on the confirmation of Judge Samuel Alito, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) sent members of the Senate Judiciary Committee questions developed through our web-based program, “Ask Judge Alito” (www.AskJudgeAlito.com). The program allowed people from across the United States to email questions they believe it is important for the nominee to answer during the Senate hearings that commence today. The members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have been sent the most compelling and representative of these questions to pose to Judge Alito during the hearings.

Saperstein: While it is the Senate’s responsibility to examine whether a nominee is worthy of a seat on our nation’s highest Court, it is the American people’s right and responsibility to help frame the debate.

Contact: Alexis Rice or Emily Kane 202.387.2800

Washington, January 9, 2006 – Today, as the Senate Judiciary Committee begins hearings on the confirmation of Judge Samuel Alito, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) sent members of the Senate Judiciary Committee questions developed through our web-based program, “Ask Judge Alito” (www.AskJudgeAlito.com). The program allowed people from across the United States to email questions they believe it is important for the nominee to answer during the Senate hearings that commence today. The members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have been sent the most compelling and representative of these questions to pose to Judge Alito during the hearings.

“America is at her best when each individual is enfranchised and heard, an ideal that our ‘Ask Judge Alito’ initiative embodies,” said Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the RAC. “While it is the Senate’s responsibility to examine whether a nominee is worthy of a seat on our nation’s highest Court, it is the American people’s right and responsibility to help frame the debate.”

A copy of the letter follows:

Dear Senators Specter and Leahy,

Today, the Judiciary Committee will begin its pending work of determining whether Judge Samuel Alito Jr. is the right person to fill the Supreme Court vacancy. Like countless Americans, Reform Jews view this critical process as a cornerstone of our democracy. So many of the issues of paramount concern to the Reform Jewish Movement hinge on Court decisions pertaining to church/state issues, privacy, reproductive rights, civil rights, and the environment.

The Union for Reform Judaism encompasses over 900 congregations with nearly 1.5 million members. In order to better understand our constituents’ concerns, we developed a web-based program, “Ask Judge Alito,” which allowed people from across the United States to write in with questions they believe it is important for the nominee to answer during the Senate hearings. We are now forwarding the most compelling and representative of their questions to you. We urge you, and the members of the committee, to pose these questions to Judge Alito.

We received more questions concerning Judge Alito’s views on the separation of church and state than any other single issue, closely followed by questions pertaining to reproductive rights. While the questions ranged in theme and style, they all demonstrate the voices of Americans who understand what is at stake in this process.

The following illustrate the diversity of questions we received. (Comments in brackets are drawn either directly from other questions of like concern or represent a synthesis of multiple questions):

“Do you believe that the test first stated in the Lemon v. Kurtzman decision is still viable, such that it should be applied to determine whether a particular government action violates the First Amendment's Establishment Clause? If not, what test do you believe should be applied to determine whether a particular government action violates the Establishment Clause?”
-David R. Bohm, Chesterfield, Missouri

Do you believe that the Constitution includes any right to privacy? [If so, to what extent do the States, the Federal Government, or both have legislative authority over privacy rights?”]
-Joyce J. Aloisi, Wilmington, Delaware

Do you believe that the Americans with Disabilities Act provides enough protections for people with disabilities, especially where employment discrimination is concerned? -Anonymous

If faced with a decision about the constitutional [legitimacy] of a law banning gay marriage, or a law explicitly allowing it, [how would you conceptually see the issues in such a case?]
-Alexandra Stein, Washington DC

How much will judicial precedent weigh into how you interpret the Constitution? [Can you give any examples of when you think the Supreme Court was correct to overturn precedent – and when it was incorrect?]
-Jonah Kaplan, New Jersey

The terms of the Eleventh Amendment refer only to suits brought against a state by "citizens of another state, or by citizens or subjects of any foreign state." Decisions of the Supreme Court have given states much broader immunity from lawsuits--e.g., barring (federal court) suits against a state brought by a citizen of that same state. What is your view of Supreme Court decisions expanding this immunity of the states?
-David Marblestone, Chevy Chase, Maryland

What is the proper role of the federal government in the private lives of Americans?
-Abe Goldsmith, Lake Forest, Illinois

We hope that these questions prove helpful as you and your colleagues embark on this significant process.

Sincerely,

Rabbi David Saperstein

CC: Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee

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The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 1800 Reform rabbis.



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