Today, the Reform Jewish Movement adds its voice to those calling on the Senate to reject the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. He has many professional and intellectual qualifications, but an examination of Judge Kavanaugh’s record makes it clear that his elevation to the Supreme Court would significantly jeopardize or adversely affect the most fundamental rights the Reform Movement has long supported. These rights, rooted deeply in enduring Jewish values as expressed in biblical, rabbinic and modern sources, are specifically articulated in our Movement’s resolutions[i] and illustrate our commitment to the principles of justice, equality, the rule of law and compassion.
Our decision was guided by the criteria established in the 2002 Union for Reform Judaism Resolution on Judicial, Executive Branch, and Independent Agency Nominations and the 2017 Central Conference of American Rabbis Resolution on Judicial, Executive Branch, and Federal Agency Appointees. These resolutions outline considerations to weigh when making a determination regarding a nomination.
In the case of Judge Kavanaugh, among the considerations was that the nominee “on one or more issues of core concern to the Reform Movement…would likely contribute significantly to reshaping American jurisprudence or policy in a direction that would jeopardize those core values”[ii] and that “a nominee’s confirmation might shift the ideological or policy balance of [the Supreme] Court…on matters of core concern to the Reform Movement”[iii] and in ways inimical to our view of American values, principles and ideals.
Judge Kavanaugh’s appointment, particularly to fill Justice Anthony Kennedy’s seat, would likely shift the ideological balance of the Court, significantly and detrimentally reshaping American jurisprudence. Justice Kennedy was long a swing vote on the Court. Challenges to the right to abortion, access to contraception, the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, work requirements for Medicaid and other safety net programs, environmental protections, civil rights, civil liberties, workers’ rights, LGBTQ rights, religious liberty, immigration, the separation of powers, the proposition that even the President is subject to the rule of law and more could all come to the Supreme Court in the coming years and, if past patterns hold, be decided by 5-4 votes. In each of these areas, the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh threatens to roll back advances for which, inspired by Jewish values, we have fought so hard over the past century, with the potential to impact the United States for generations to come. Indeed, as a member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and in his writings, Judge Kavanaugh has evidenced a judicial philosophy that would curtail women’s reproductive rights,[iv] weaken workers’ rights,[v] oppose gun violence prevention measures,[vi] threaten the protections of freedom of religion by breaking down the separation of church and state,[vii] challenge environmental protections[viii] and undermine voting rights.[ix] This record puts Judge Kavanaugh in strong opposition to long-held policy positions and core values of the Reform Jewish Movement.
Grounded in our analysis in accordance with the values of our tradition and resolutions of our Movement, we urge the Senate to reject Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination.
American Conference of Cantors
Association of Reform Jewish Educators
Central Conference of American Rabbis
Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism
Early Childhood Educators of Reform Judaism
Men of Reform Judaism
National Association for Temple Administration
NFTY – The Reform Jewish Youth Movement
Program and Engagement Professionals of Reform Judaism
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Union for Reform Judaism
Women of Reform Judaism
[i] URJ and CCAR resolution on issues of core concern to the Reform Movement include the following: Separation of church and state and religious liberty: Religion in Public Education (URJ, 1961), Governmental Aid to Parochial Schools (URJ, 1961), Public Education (URJ, 2001), Federal Funding for Parochial Schools (CCAR, 1992), Free Exercise of Religion (CCAR, 1991), Religion and the Public Schools (CCAR, 1987), Religion in Schools (CCAR, 1984), and Prayer in Schools (CCAR, 1976). Voting rights: The Continuing Struggle for Voting Rights (CCAR, 2005), Election Reform (CCAR, 2001), Achieving Equality Under the Law (URJ, 1961), Election Reform (URJ, 2001), and Resolution on Redistricting (URJ, 2017). Reproductive rights: Free Choice in Abortion (URJ, 1981), Reproductive Rights (URJ, 1990), Abortion (CCAR, 1975), and State Restrictions on Access to Reproductive Health Services (CCAR, 2008). Health care: Health Care and Health Insurance (URJ, 1975), Health Care (URJ, 1987), Reform of the Health Care System (URJ, 1993), Health Insurance (URJ, 2007), Resolution on Health Care (CCAR, 2017), Health Care Reform (CCAR, 1993), and Health Care (CCAR, 1976). The Environment: Climate Justice (CCAR, 2015), Endangered Species (CCAR, 1996), Environmental Pollution (CCAR, 1984), Toxic Substances in the Environment (URJ, 1983), Climate Change (CCAR, 2005), Resolution on Addressing the Impacts of Climate Change (URJ, 2017). Economic Justice: Economic Justice (URJ, 1976), Workers’ Rights In The United States (URJ, 2005), Economic Justice (URJ, 1987), and a digest of resolutions Labor: Unions (CCAR, 1899-1974). Gun Violence Prevention: Gun Control Legislation (URJ, 1972), Handgun Control (URJ, 1975), Ending Gun Violence (URJ, 1999), Gun Violence (CCAR, 2015), and Assault Weapons and High Capacity Magazine Ban (CCAR, 2018). LGBTQ equality: Recognition for Lesbian and Gay Partnerships (URJ, 1995), Gay and Lesbian Marriage (CCAR, 1996), Gays and Lesbians, Civil Rights (CCAR, 1993); URJ (2015) and CCAR (2017) both passed resolutions on the Rights of Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming People.
[ii] 2002 Union for Reform Judaism Resolution on Judicial, Executive Branch, and Independent Agency Nominations, Part 2 D. 2017 Central Conference of American Rabbis Resolution on Judicial, Executive Branch, and Federal Agency Appointees, Part 2 D.
[iii] 2002 Union for Reform Judaism Resolution on Judicial, Executive Branch, and Independent Agency Nominations, Part 2 F. 2017 Central Conference of American Rabbis Resolution on Judicial, Executive Branch, and Federal Agency Appointees, Part 2 F.
[iv] Priests for Life v. HHS (2015), Garza v. Hargan (2017) and a 2017 speech entitled “From the Bench: The Constitutional Statesmanship of Chief Justice William Rehnquist.”
[v] American Fed. of Gov’t Employees, AFL-CIO v. Gates (2007) and SeaWorld of Fla., LLC v. Perez (2014).
[vi] Heller v. District of Columbia (2011).
[vii] Amicus brief filed for Santa Fe Independent School District v. Jane Doe, et al. (2000) prior to his time on the Federal bench and remarks from Judge Kavanaugh’s 2006 Senate nomination hearing.
[viii] West Virginia v. EPA, Coalition for Responsible Regulation v. EPA (2012), EME Homer City Generation, LP v. EPA (2012) and White Stallion Energy Ctr., LLC v. EPA (2015).
[ix] South Carolina v. Holder (2012).