The Senate will vote soon on the controversial nomination of D.C. Judge Loren AliKhan to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 11-10 entirely along party lines Thursday to advance AliKhan’s nomination to a full Senate floor vote, despite a coalition of more than a dozen legal and policy organizations urging senators to vote against her confirmation.
“During her short 11 years as a litigator, she has developed a remarkably long record of advocacy against religious freedom,” reads a coalition letter sent to the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and to Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., the panel’s ranking member. All of the Democrats on the committee voted in AliKhan’s favor, while all the Republicans opposed her confirmation.
“While we recognize all attorneys must represent the best interest of their clients, each attorney is at liberty to determine which arguments to use,” the letter continues. “The courts have continuously rejected her discriminative arguments against people of faith and their houses of worship, and faith-based organizations.”
AliKhan currently serves as an associate judge on the District of Columbia Court of Appeals and previously worked as the D.C. solicitor general.
First Liberty Institute, a nationwide legal organization protecting religious liberty, drafted the letter that was signed by 16 organizations, including the Christian Legal Society, The Heritage Foundation, The American Association of Christian Schools, the Faith & Freedom Coalition, and the Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty. (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of The Heritage Foundation.)
“As a litigator, Loren AliKhan repeatedly took extreme positions in opposition to the First Amendment’s [protections] for religious organizations, houses of worships, and citizens,” Hiram Sasser, executive general counsel for the First Liberty Institute, said in an email to The Daily Signal. “She poses a grave threat to the religious liberty rights of all Americans. The Senate should reject her nomination.”
In several cases, AliKhan has employed anti-religious liberty arguments, according to First Liberty.
In the Supreme Court case Hosanna-Tabor v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, AliKhan called on the court to strike down the ministerial exemption, which prevents government interference in the employment hiring practices of religious institutions.
According to the letter, “AliKhan argued that ‘Nothing … in any right under the Religion Clauses – grants religious organizations such a sweeping exception.’ The Supreme Court unanimously called her position ‘untenable’ and hard to square with the text of the First Amendment, which gives special solicitude to the rights of religious organizations.”
The most “egregious” example of AliKhan’s hostility to religious freedom, according to the coalition letter, was demonstrated by her argument that “houses of worship – meeting outdoors, masked and socially distanced – pose a greater threat to the COVID-19 pandemic than the allowed city-wide protests.”
Arguing before the D.C. District Court, AliKhan, according to the letter, “chose not to bring in a medical expert to support her claims, instead she brought in a Ph.D. in Poli-Science. He asserted that the risk of spreading COVID-19 is higher for events where people are standing (for a church service) than where they are moving (for a protest).”
The Senate is expected to vote on AliKhan’s nomination later this month.
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