Hispanic, Latino Evangelical Leaders Back High Court Pick Sotomayor

The two largest networks of Hispanic and Latino evangelicals in America revealed their thoughts on Judge Sonia Sotomayor this week after looking into the Supreme Court nominee's background and past decisions.

And both were filled with high praise and celebration over President Obama's pick in stark contrast to the heavy opposition and criticism that quickly came from their white counterparts.

"First, as a Hispanic American, we celebrate her nomination. Her journey is our collective journey," said the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), in a released statement.

Shortly after, the Rev. Miguel Rivera, president of the National Coalition of Latino Clergy & Christian Leaders (CONLAMIC), said leaders of his organization "are delighted" about Sotomayor's nomination and are calling on the U.S. Senate to confirm her nomination prior to the August break so that she may join the court prior to the October Term.

"We deem Judge Sonia Sotomayor highly qualified to be a Supreme Court Justice," stated Rivera on Thursday.

Though a number of evangelical leaders have come out in opposition of Sotomayor over comments she made on legislating from the bench and over concerns raised on whether or not she'll be impartial as a justice in light of a past case involving minorities, CONLAMIC said they had carefully reviewed Sotomayor's numerous decisions and statements and found that the judge "follows well-established precedent in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and the United States Supreme Court."

"In strictly adhering to precedent, regardless of result, Judge Sotomayor demonstrated that she is not a judicial activist who seeks to impose a particular outcome based on her beliefs, but rather a judicious jurist who applies established law to the cases before her. CONLAMIC is confident that she has a restrained approach to the law," stated the organization, which claims to represent 20,000 churches in 34 states.

The NHCLC, meanwhile, rejected the "far left" and "radical pro-choice" label that some critics have slapped on the "strong" Puerto Rican Catholic.

NHCLC CEO Dr. Jesse Miranda said he is "confident that her record on life will demonstrate her Catholic values" and NHCLC Chairman Dr. Gilbert Velez added that, from the information their organization has acquired so far, Sotomayor comes across as a moderate.

"Accordingly, we stand prayerfully and cautiously optimistic of her nomination and render prayerful support," added Velez, whose group is often at odds with NHCLC as the former claims to be the nation's largest Hispanic Christian organization and the latter the nation's largest Latino Christian organization.

NHCLC, which often refers to itself as a sister organization of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), claims to represent 18,000 Hispanic churches and 75 denominations in addition to faith-based organizations, institutes, networks, congregations, and active laity.

Though CONLAMIC and the NHCLC have come to an agreement on Sotomayor, other evangelicals remain opposed, for the most part, to the federal appeals court judge.

Since Obama announced Sotomayor as his first high court nominee last Month, there have been a number of concerns that have come out, including a 2001 speech in which she said she hoped the rulings of a "wise Latina" would be better than those of a white male without similar experiences as well as her rejection of claims filed by fire fighters who said they were not promoted because the city council feared being sued for racial discrimination as no black firefighters scored well enough to be promoted.

"The Ricci case has now gone before the U.S. Supreme Court, and the majority of the justices have given every indication that they are going to give the New Haven firefighters the justice they were so casually denied by Ms. Sotomayor," noted Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

Despite concerns, the Democrat-controlled Senate is expected to confirm Sotomayor, though when that is remains uncertain.

While Democrats are pushing for July hearings and a summertime vote, the GOP wants to wait until September, citing the judge's voluminous record during nearly 17 years on the bench.

President Obama, one day after high court Justice David Souter announced his intention to retire, said he hopes to swear in a replacement in time for "him or her" to be seated by the first Monday in October – when the high court's new term begins.

According to Sotomayor, the White House had contacted her about serving on the high court four days before Souter's announcement.