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Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty

WASHINGTON — The following is a statement by the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty.

At today’s White House announcement of her nomination to succeed Associate Justice John Paul Stevens on the U.S. Supreme Court, U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan said, “Law matters. It keeps us safe. It protects our most fundamental rights and freedoms.”

The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty hopes the nominee, if confirmed, will protect our most fundamental freedom — religious freedom — with a commitment to principles of both no establishment and free exercise embodied in our “first freedom.”

In her remarks, she praised the retiring Stevens as having “played a particularly distinguished and exemplary role” on the Court. “It is therefore a special honor to be nominated to fill his seat,” she continued.

Stevens’ church-state record, which included more than five dozen cases, demonstrated a strong view of the Establishment Clause but a weaker view of the Free Exercise Clause. Over the past two decades, Stevens provided a solid vote against government-sponsored religious activities. For example, he wrote the majority opinion in Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe (2000), which struck a Texas school district’s policy permitting student-led prayer at public school events. Also, he has been the justice most likely to find Establishment Clause problems with legislative accommodations of religion, such as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (1993).

In succeeding Stevens, Kagan would replace the last remaining Protestant member of the High Court. BJC General Counsel K. Hollyn Hollman said, however, that far more important than her religious beliefs are Kagan’s judicial philosophy, temperament and respect for religious liberty.

“I hope the nominee incorporates Justice Stevens’ appreciation for the Establishment Clause, but with a more robust vision for the protections afforded by the Free Exercise Clause and the First Amendment doctrine that ensures the autonomy of religious organizations.”

While Kagan has spent most of her career in public service, she never has served as a judge. In the coming weeks, the BJC anticipates learning more about Kagan by reviewing her writings and public statements, as well as the upcoming confirmation hearings.

The Baptist Joint Committee is a 74-year-old, Washington, D.C.-based religious liberty organization that works to defend and extend God-given religious liberty for all, bringing a uniquely Baptist witness to the principle that religion must be freely exercised, neither advanced nor inhibited by government.