A prominent Catholic conservative who regularly criticizes liberal co-religionists for weak stances on abortion said Thursday he will be quietly rooting for Judge Sonia Sotomayor to be confirmed to the Supreme Court and said she may even be an improvement over retiring Justice David Souter.
William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, said that Judge Sotomayor’s record has more bright spots than conservative Catholics can reasonably expect to get from an appointee of President Obama.
“If the Republicans are smart, they would not fight this one,” he told The Washington Times in an interview.
“I wish I knew more about her. But from what we know, it looks like she’ll be at least a wash with Souter, and maybe we’ll even see improvement.”
He noted that while Judge Sotomayor’s record on abortion-related cases is thin and tangential — a challenge to policies on U.S. aid to international family-planning groups and a decision about the free-speech rights of abortion protesters — but she has backed the legal claims of pro-lifers.
“She’s [also] been pretty good on religious liberty cases” and “doesn’t hold any animus on religion” either in her decisions or her known public remarks, he said. “She said it was wrong to prohibit a menorah on public ground; I like that. She talks about the religious rights of prisoners; I like that too.”
Mr. Donohue also mentioned a more personal angle — his identification with New York’s Puerto Rican community, which included leading the Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City’s Spanish Harlem and taking “groups of 15, 16 kids to Yankee Stadium.”
“All these things put together, I’m gonna quietly root for her,” Mr. Donohue said.
Mr. Donohue also suggested that opposing Judge Sotomayor’s confirmation would not be a wise move either in the short term, given who the alternative nominee might be, or the longer term, by possibly angering Hispanic voters.
“I am looking at this pool of likely competitors, and, far and away, Sotomayor is the best candidate,” he said.
“I think it’s important to always reserve your social and moral capital. You don’t pull the trigger unless you have a clear target. … Sotomayor is not [Harry] Knox or [Kathleen] Sebelius,” he said, referring, respectively, to a gay member of the White House’s faith outreach office and to Mr. Obama’s pro-choice Health and Human Services secretary, both of whom Mr. Donohue vigorously criticized.
“I would hope that Catholic conservatives would object some, but not do the full-court press,” he said. “That might look like we have an agenda that will not look good to many in the Latino community.”