Opposition rooted in 2004 General Assembly resolution on civil liberties.
In a statement issued this morning, the UUA’s Washington Office for Advocacy said that the Association had never before opposed a high court nominee and that it is only the second religious denomination to announce opposition to Alito. Rob Keithan, director of the Washington office, said the stand “is based on concerns over civil liberties, including religious liberty, the right to privacy, and due process.”
“Unitarian Universalists have always honored our commitment to uphold civil liberties,” said the Rev. William G. Sinkford, the Association’s president. “Protecting the freedoms that are at the heart of our democracy is for us a religious, as well as a civic, duty.”
At the Association’s 2004 General Assembly in Long Beach, California, delegates representing Unitarian Universalist congregations from across the nation voted to adopt a Statement of Conscience on civil liberties that was shaped by two years of discussion in congregations and General Assemblies. Statements of Conscience set the Association’s official policy positions.
The 1,300-word Statement of Conscience begins, “Liberty is at the core of our Unitarian Universalist faith. Civil liberties are at the heart of our American experiment in democracy. Those civil liberties guaranteed by the Bill of Rights . . . are as fundamental to our practice of democracy as freedom of conscience is to our actions of faith.”
The document goes on to say specifically that “We oppose nominees to the federal appeals courts or the Supreme Court whose records demonstrate insensitivity to the protection of civil liberties.”
The Washington office, responding to the Statement of Conscience, researched Alito’s record before the Association announced its opposition.
“The decision to take a position on a judicial nominee is not one the UUA takes up lightly,” said Keithan. “The nomination of Judge Samuel Alito Jr. is significantly different from that of Chief Justice John Roberts or Harriet Miers, in that he has an extensive judicial record that clearly reveals his judicial philosophy on a wide range of issues. After extensive research, Unitarian Universalist Association staff agreed that Judge Alito’s rulings revealed a pattern of views that were outside the mainstream and hostile to established precedent favoring civil liberties.”
President George W. Bush nominated Alito, a federal appeals court judge, after Miers withdrew her nomination to fill the Supreme Court seat vacated by retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
The Union for Reform Judaism, in its biennial* assembly on November 20, voted overwhelmingly to oppose Alito’s confirmation, and an array of civil rights groups have also announced opposition.
“The Unitarian Universalist Association and our allies will continue to challenge conservative religious fundamentalists and others who claim to speak for all people of faith,” Keithan said in an earlier statement. “There is no single religious perspective on this or any other issue.”
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Correction 12.12.05: An earlier version of this story inaccurately described the Union for Reform Judaism's convention as "biannual." The convention meets every other year. Click here to return to the corrected paragraph.
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Tom Stites was the editor of UU World from 1997 to 2006 and retired as its publisher in 2007. He is a member of the First Religious Society of Newburyport, Massachusetts.