The first lady of law, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor spoke candidly about First Amendment religion rights yesterday to UA students.
O'Connor, who spoke at the University of Arizona College of Law, has served as an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court since September 1981 and has been involved in many of the court's religious decisions.
But she said decisions regarding religion are rarely unanimous.
"Several have had no majority opinion and those with a majority have been with concurring decisions," said O'Connor.
O'Connor said she believes that the government should not interfere with religious practices unless there is a compelling reason to do so.
"Under the right to free exercise of religion, no one can be coerced to deny their own faith," she said. "The Constitution does not aim to secularize, but it leaves open a large sphere for religious practice that is outside government control," she said.
O'Connor was appointed to the Arizona Court of Appeals by Governor Bruce Babbitt and served from 1979 to 1981. She also was an elected member of the Maricopa County Superior Court and a Senator in the Arizona State Legislature, where she was elected as the first female Senate Majority Leader.
"It was a real experience hearing a pioneer for women in the law. She had extremely rational view points that were well-supported," said Sarah Works, a second-year law and philosophy student.
Although most students said they felt honored by her visit, some said they felt O'Connor was slightly evasive.
"It was interesting to have a personal viewpoint of what we've been reading about, but she kind of expressed a middle-of-the- road viewpoint," said Kristin Bekkum, a first-year law student.
O'Connor's visit was the second this semester from a member of the U.S. Supreme Court. Chief Justice William Rehnquist spent two weeks here in February teaching a UA law course.
"She was very candid about religion. Usually a justice doesn't share many personal views. Rehnquist kept very close to the vest," said Mark Dubiel, a second-year law student.
O'Connor's speech was highly attended by many local justices including Stanley Feldman, chief justice of the Arizona Supreme Court. Her sister, Arizona Senator Ann Day, also attended.
O'Connor spoke as part of the annual Isaac Marks memorial lecture series which was established in 1979 to bring prominent lecturers from various fields of law to the UA law school. Read Next Article