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Reform Jews Recommend Questions for Kagan Hearing

Rabbi Saperstein: "In order to best gauge our community's concerns, we developed a web-based campaign, AskElenaKagan.com, which allowed Reform Jews and others from across the United States to write in with questions . . . We hope that you will consider the questions posed by our community . . . as you formulate your own questions for the hearings."

Contact: Sean Thibault or Jessica Weiser
202.387.2800 | news@rac.org

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 22nd, 2010 - In anticipation of the upcoming Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on the nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the United States Supreme Court, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director and Counsel of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, sent the following letter to the members of the Committee containing potential questions submitted by Reform Jews and others through AskElenaKagan.com:

The full text of the letter follows:

Dear Senator:

As you are, of course, well aware, on June 28th, 2010 the Senate Judiciary Committee will begin the crucial process of conducting hearings on the nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan to serve as United States Supreme Court Justice.

While the Union for Reform Judaism has not taken a formal position on Solicitor General Kagan's nomination in advance of the hearings, we are mindful that so many of the issues that we care about -- from the separation of church and state to reproductive rights, from civil rights to the environment -- are impacted by decisions of the nine Justices that serve on the United States Supreme Court. Thus, we believe that any person receiving a lifetime appointment to the highest Court in our nation must go through a comprehensive hearing process. Such a process requires genuine, thorough and tough questioning that sheds light on the nominee's temperament, constitutional beliefs and judicial philosophy.

The Union for Reform Judaism represents over 900 congregations, which encompass nearly 1.5 million Reform Jews. In order to best gauge our community's concerns, we developed a web-based campaign, "AskElenaKagan.com," which allowed Reform Jews and others from across the United States to write in with questions they want Solicitor General Kagan to answer during the hearings. We are now forwarding the most compelling of their questions on to you, as well as some questions developed by our professional staff.

We hope that you will consider the questions posed by our community-- or variations thereof, which address the same topics -- as you formulate your own questions for the hearings.

We look forward to productive hearings and stand ready to assist you in preparing questions in any way that we can.

Sincerely,
/s/
Rabbi David Saperstein
Director and Counsel

POTENTIAL QUESTIONS FOR SOLICITOR GENERAL ELENA KAGAN
FROM THE RELIGIOUS ACTION CENTER OF REFORM JUDAISM

Will your lack of judicial experience help or hinder you on the Bench? Why?

Please discuss your consensus-building abilities. How, as a Supreme Court justice, would you go about working with your colleagues to gain support for your views?

How are religious organizations different from secular organizations for First Amendment purposes? In what ways does the special nature of religious institutions call for different treatment under the Constitution?

What limits does the Establishment Clause place on government funding that flows to faith-based organizations?

Some people believe that governmental "acknowledgments" of "God" -- such as "under God" in the Pledge and "so help me God" in oaths -- are permissible under the Establishment Clause. Others see such so-called acknowledgments as advancement of monotheism and hostility toward non-belief. Do you believe that acknowledgments of God raise serious concerns under either the First Amendment's Establishment Clause or the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause?

What is your position on corporate "personhood"? How would you apply your legal philosophy in this area to a situation that is beyond the facts in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission?

Do states have a right to define marriage as solely between a man and a woman? What should be the Federal role concerning marriage?

Under what circumstances do you affirm the right of a woman to choose to terminate a pregnancy? Why did you urge President Clinton to ban so-called "partial birth" abortions?

Which government agencies have the power to enforce the Clean Water Act and other environmental legislation?

Do you agree with the Roper v. Simmons decision that the death penalty for individuals who have committed crimes before the age of 18 is cruel and unusual punishment? In what other circumstances could the death penalty be considered cruel and unusual punishment?

How will you uphold the civil liberties of American citizens in the face of growing claims that the Executive (President) has the constitutional right to undermine due process under the rationale this is necessary to fight terrorism?

For more information: Jessie Weiser, Program Associate. 202-387-2800. jweiser@rac.org.

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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 1,800 Reform rabbis. Visit www.rac.org for more.



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