“Right to Believe” Advocates Submit Comments to Commission Illustrating How Judge Laura Cordero’s Actions Set Dangerous Legal Precedent, Make Her Unqualified for Reappointment
WASHINGTON, March 2, 2020 — Today, a grassroots group of religious liberty advocates held a rally in front of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia and outside of the D.C. Commission on Judicial Disabilities and Tenure (CJDT) to demand that Judge Laura A. Cordero not be reappointed as an Associate Judge of the Superior Court, adding their voices to the thousands of individual comments that were submitted to the CJDT by citizens and affected parties who are calling for her tenure to end.
In comments to the CJDT, which will determine whether Judge Cordero should be reappointed upon the expiration of her current term on June 27, 2020, concerned advocates described how Judge Cordero’s previous legal decisions in a case before the Superior Court make her unqualified for reappointment. Judge Cordero’s 2018 summary judgment decision in The Family Federation for World Peace and Unification International v. Hyun Jin Preston Moon violated the First Amendment and set a dangerous judicial precedent that impedes religious freedom and the independent governance and management of Washington, D.C. non-profit organizations. Judge Cordero disregarded thousands of pages of evidence that showed indisputable proof of an ongoing religious schism within the Unification movement.
“Judge Laura Cordero’s summary judgement ruling has serious implications for religious freedom and the independence of non-profits, and make her severely unqualified to serve as a judge of the D.C. Superior Court,” said Rev. Howard Self, who led today’s demonstration. “Judge Cordero not only denied the defendants their right to due process but completely ignored the First Amendment in issuing her ruling for this case involving the D.C. non-profit UCI. Her short-sighted and uninformed decision threatens all board-governed non-profits based in Washington, D.C. and all Americans who are granted the right to freedom of religion. For that reason, she should not be reappointed.”
In 2013, Judge Anita Josey-Herring, the first presiding judge in the case, signed a motion to dismiss the case, The Family Federation for World Peace and Unification International v. Hyun Jin Preston Moon, under the doctrine of religious abstention. That ruling was appealed, and in December 2015, the D.C. Court of Appeals agreed to reopen the case to allow for discovery, writing that, “going forward, if it becomes apparent to the trial court that this dispute does in fact turn on matters of doctrinal interpretation or church governance, the trial court may grant summary judgment to avoid excessive entanglement with religion.”
In October 2018, Judge Cordero issued a summary judgment ruling, scant months after being assigned to the near decade-long case. Judge Cordero’s 2018 summary judgment decision violated the First Amendment by enabling a secular court to make a religious interpretation of the Unification movement’s theology, history, administration, and polity amid an ongoing schism. In making her summary judgment ruling, Judge Cordero determined not only Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s successor, but the purpose and organization of an established religious movement with millions of followers around the world.
“I joined this Right To Believe campaign because I can no longer silently suffer as the court infringes on my sacred freedom as a human being and as an American citizen,” said Naomi Yakawich, a 27-year old member of the Unification movement who expressed outrage at Judge Cordero’s intervention in matters pertaining to her faith. “I wrote a letter now over a year ago to Judge Cordero of the D.C. Superior Court to respectfully urge her to consider the negative consequences of her decision to take sides in the religious dispute between Family Federation and Dr. Hyun Jin Moon. Judge Cordero ignored the clear evidence provided and has essentially taken one religious group’s theology over another, deciding which view she deems right and which she deems wrong and to be punished. As a person of faith, as an American citizen, and as a human being with fundamental rights given by my Creator, I am speaking out to protect not only my freedom, but that of all people to practice their faith. Just as I have no right to infringe on another person’s path to spiritual enlightenment, Judge Cordero had no right to dismiss my faith practices as valid or invalid.”
The CJDT is accepting comments on Judge Cordero’s reappointment from members of the Bar, representatives of the court system, and the general public through March 2, 2020. Grassroots advocates are calling on Judge Jennifer Anderson, who now presides over The Family Federation for World Peace and Unification International v. Hyun Jin Preston Moon, to dismiss the case on religious grounds.