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Jewish Groups Take Opposing Stands on Supreme Court Judge’s Nomination

Two Jewish organizations have taken opposing stands on the nomination of U.S. Appeals Court Judge Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Agudath Israel of America, an Orthodox group, has announced it is backing Thomas, citing his support for religious liberty and his commitment to equal opportunity for all Americans.

But the National Council of Jewish Women announced its opposition to the nomination, in part because it believes Thomas may vote to overturn Roe vs. Wade, the 1974 Supreme Court case upholding a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion.

Thomas, a 43-year-old black conservative, was nominated by President Bush to succeed Thurgood Marshall, who announced his retirement last month.

Most Jewish organizations are not expected to take a stand until after Thomas’ appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee for his confirmation hearing in September.

But several organizations are sending the committee suggested questions they believe the nominee should be asked. The questions deal with such issues as affirmative action, abortion and the separation of church and state.

Thomas “has displayed great sensitivity to the cause of religious liberty,” Agudath Israel said in a statement endorsing him.

“He has articulated a vision of equal opportunity for all Americans that will help move the United States toward a society in which people are judged on the basis of their qualifications rather than their race, gender, religion or any other extraneous characteristic.”

‘SERIOUS DOUBT’ ABOUT NOMINEE

But Joan Bronk, the NCJW’s president, said in a statement that her organization opposes Thomas because it “has serious doubt” about his “willingness to uphold the constitutional right of privacy, his desire to comply with the use of affirmative action to offset discrimination, and his actions on age discrimination.”

Bronk said Thomas has been critical not only of Roe vs. Wade, but of Griswold vs. Connecticut. In Griswold, a 1965 case, the Supreme Court found that a married couple had a constitutional right to privacy which prevented the state from interfering with their use of contraceptives.

The NCJW also expressed concern that Thomas, as chairman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission from 1982 to 1989, opposed the use of goals and timetables for affirmative action and delayed action on agediscrimination cases, resulting in the loss of pension benefits for thousands of persons.

While the NCJW made no mention of reports that Thomas had praised Black Muslim leader Louis Farrakhan in two 1983 speeches, Agudath Israel said it believes that Thomas did not know at the time of Farrakhan’s anti-Semitic remarks.

Since the speeches were made public, Thomas has issued statements denouncing anti-Semitism and every other type of bigotry.

“We are firmly persuaded that Judge Thomas personally abhors anti-Semitism and is totally dedicated to eradicating it and all other forms of bigotry in the United States,” Agudath Israel said.

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