WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) today cited religious freedom concerns as a reason for opposing Jesse M. Furman, President Obama’s nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Inhofe was joined by 33 other senators in opposing the nomination.
“In keeping with President Obama’s attack on religious freedom related to the contraception ruling, this nomination further shows President Obama’s disregard for religious liberty in America,” said Inhofe. “Here we have an Obama appointee who in essence sought to keep religion and religious view points out of the public square. His position was both an assault on the free exercise of religion and an attack on free speech. In short, Furman encouraged judicial activism against religious expression, because he apparently finds the message of Christianity offensive.”
While in private practice, Furman sided with the Anti-Defamation League and others in the Good News Club v. Milford Central School case. In that case, a public elementary school refused to allow an evangelical Christian club for children to use the school facilities for its meetings outside school hours. Furman argued that the school’s policy was a reasonable limitation aimed to exclude categories of free speech. Specifically, he said, “While the public school is designed to promote cohesion among a heterogeneous democratic people, the Good News Club is designed to do quite the opposite: to label people as ‘saved’ or ‘unsaved’ and, thus, to promote religious belief in general and Christian belief in particular.”
Furman further argued that the restriction was justifiable to, in essence, keep religious views out of the public square. In a 6-3 opinion, the Supreme Court disagreed with the view of Furman and the elementary school, holding that when a school operates a “limited public forum,” it may not discriminate against speech within that forum based on the viewpoint it expresses.