Supreme Court Candidate Says She Wants to Decide Religious Cases

Kristen Juras expects Legislature will take up religious freedom issues that could be challenged in court

By Dillon Tabish

BILLINGS — A Montana Supreme Court candidate told a colleague that she believes the court will be dealing with a lot of freedom-of-religion cases, and she wants to be a part of making those decisions, according to an email released in a public-information request.

The Dec. 8 email by University of Montana adjunct law professor Kristen Juras to a psychology professor was obtained by Billings attorney John Heenan, who supports a political committee that backs Juras’ opponent, District Judge Dirk Sandefur. In it, she says she decided to run for the court seat after a lot of prayer.

“I think there are going to be a lot of cases affecting religious freedom that arise over the next several years, and I’d like to be part of the decision-making body that will be addressing those issues,” the email reads, according to the Billings Gazette.

“What I covet is prayer. Please pray that during my campaign I would always act in a way that honors God, for His favor, for opportunities, for wisdom in my campaign strategies,” Juras concluded.

Juras told the newspaper that religious freedom is just one of several subjects she is interested in that she expects to come before the state Supreme Court. She said she expects the Legislature will take up religious freedom issues that could be challenged in court.

“I’m running for the Montana Supreme Court for several reasons,” she said. “I am running because for years I believed the court would benefit from the experience of an attorney such as myself with more than 30 years of experience representing farmers and small business owners.”

Heenan said the email is evidence to him that Juras cannot be a fair and impartial judge.

Caitlin Borgmann of the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana said the email is worrisome.

“The fact that she has named this as one of her top issues and motivation for serving on the court is alarming” Borgmann said.

Juras has previously brought religion into her campaign, saying in an article in the Montana Christian Journal that it is important to elect justices who respect all fundamental rights, including the free exercise of religion.

Juras said she was raised a Catholic and attends Crossroads Memorial Church, a Southern Baptist church in Great Falls.

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