by Jorge Gomez • 5 min read
The U.S. Senate confirmed Nancy Abudu to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. She is the 34th appellate judge confirmed under the Biden administration and Biden’s first on the Eleventh Circuit.
As a federal appeals court judge, Abudu is now in a position to decide major cases on religious liberty. Like many of President Biden’s nominees, her record raises red flags and suggests she could be hostile to religious freedom.
Abudu previously worked as senior staff counsel with the ACLU, one of the most radical and liberal groups in the country. More recently, Abudu’s legal experience comes from the discredited Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization known for labeling political opponents—including religious organizations—as “hate groups” or “extremists.”
Abudu drew considerable opposition. She advanced past the Senate Judiciary Committee by a strict party line vote, with all members of the minority party voting “no” on her nomination. Pro-religious freedom groups like the National Religious Broadcasters warned that her association with radical organizations “suggests hostility to the First Amendment.” The American Family Association said she is “easily one of the most radical nominations to the federal bench in our nation’s history.” AFA also noted she “has a long record of asking judges to legislate from the bench on a laundry list of liberal political causes.”
In March, 18 state Attorneys General sent a letter explaining to the Senate that her views are far outside the mainstream:
“Ms. Abudu has proven herself unfit for that role. She has compared her fellow Americans to Jim-Crow era racists. She has aligned herself with self-proclaimed ‘radical movement legal activists’ who view ‘policing’ as ‘the true threat to our collective safety.’ And she has proclaimed that our criminal justice system is ‘practically the same system as during slavery.’ These spurious and outrageous statements vividly demonstrate that she lacks the judgment, fair-mindedness, and integrity required of a federal judge.”
A broad coalition of more than 50 organizations which included several faith leaders, rabbis and Christian groups also warned the Senate in a letter:
“Ms. Abudu works for a disreputable organization that has no business being a feeder for positions to any judicial office—not even of a traffic court—let alone the second highest court system in the United States. She is a political activist not a jurist and is unfit to serve at the federal appellate level.”
Abudu’s extreme statements and legal advocacy for the ACLU and SPLC suggest she could unconstitutionally advance a liberal policy agenda from the federal bench. Her record also creates serious doubts whether she will treat religious Americans fairly.
In 2017, Abudu wrote a letter to the Florida Department of Children and Families demanding that the state of Florida “cancel” a Faith Symposium, because chaplains, pastors and government officials talking about their personal faith, included faith-based mentoring, invited faith-based partners, and selected a Christian recording artist to provide music.
Abudu lost a case (Williamson v. Brevard County) at the Eleventh Circuit, when she sued the Florida Board of County Commissioners claiming that the U.S. Constitution required that non-theists deliver invocations at their commission meetings.
At her Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, she declined to condemn the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “hate map” which lists faith-based organizations and public officials, including U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn.
Abudu is only one among several pending nominees whose records suggest that their personal ideology could cloud their judgment on the bench. The Senate is still considering and could soon vote on:
Federal judges make critical legal decisions about religious freedom. As our legal experts explain, anyone who is openly hostile to religious liberty should not be a judge. Nonetheless, President Biden’s judicial nominations continue to offer very little to inspire confidence that he is committed to upholding the Constitution and the rule of law.
First Liberty is keeping a close eye on who is selected to sit on America’s courts. Our experts will continue providing the facts if any of President Biden’s nominees have a radical or unacceptable record.