Fort Payne native has front row seat to history

Cherilyn Crowe, co-valedictorian of the Class of 1995 at Fort Payne High School, works in Washington D.C. for a group that advises the Senate Judiciary Committee on Supreme Court nominees.

A Fort Payne native has a front row seat to the drama in Washington D.C. as Senate Republicans push to confirm President Donald Trump’s nominee to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Cherilyn Crowe, 43, a 1995 graduate of Fort Payne High School, is the director of communications for the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, or BJC. The organization is a group of attorneys, Capitol Hill insiders, ministers, mobilizers and scholars who file briefs in pivotal Supreme Court cases, advocate for and against legislation, testify in Congress and unite with others across faiths “to ensure that every American has, and will always have, the right to follow his or her spiritual beliefs.”

While BJC does not take positions for or against SCOTUS nominees, the organization does review each nominee’s church-state record. This role puts their legal team at work reviewing the record of Trump’s nominee, Amy Coney Barrett. They will share their findings with the Senate Judiciary Committee and publish it on their website, https://bjconline.org/.

“Any change on the Supreme Court affects all of my work plans,” said Crowe. “BJC often files briefs in Supreme Court cases dealing with religious liberty, so we always want to know about the church-state philosophy of any potential new member of the Court.”

She said Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Sept. 19 death “adds another layer of grief and unpredictability. News of Justice Scalia's death in 2016 and Justice Ginsburg's death last month both happened outside of work hours, and receiving the alert on my phone led to a range of emotions both times: shock, sadness, and the knowledge that some will try to use a death for political advantage. But, I have to move on from the news and prepare for what lies ahead: A new nomination and new research to be done on the nominee's church-state record to better understand his or her judicial philosophy when it comes to upholding the two religion clauses in the First Amendment.”

Crowe said she has observed the nominations of Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and now Barrett since joining the staff at BJC.

“No two have been the same,” she said. “As with all of those nominations, our timing -- and my work -- is tied to the plans of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Once they announced their hearing date, we had to make sure we released our review of the nominee's record before the start of hearings in order to provide senators with insight on the nominee's philosophy in church-state law.”

Crowe said she is mindful of the historical nature of these events as she looks out the window of BJC’s offices overlooking the majestic Supreme Court building and the U.S. Capitol building.

Crowe first joined the BJC staff as the associate director of communications, spending nearly a decade prior to that in television news at the NewsChannel 5 Network (WTVF-TV) in Nashville. She served in a variety of producing roles at WTVF and worked on an array of special projects with the station, including live gavel-to-gavel trial coverage, political debates, election night results and coverage of the town hall presidential debate in 2008.

Crowe is a journalism and mass communications graduate of Samford University and earned a Master’s degree in liberal arts and science from Vanderbilt University. A member of the board of the Religion Communicators Council, Crowe serves as the president of the D.C. chapter. She is the recipient of several DeRose-Hinkhouse Awards from the Religion Communicators Council, recognizing her work in creating and producing a podcast series, social media campaigns, specialized writing and videos.

Crowe also serves on the editorial advisory board of The Christian Citizen. A graduate of the Nashville Young Leaders Council, she was nominated for the Rising Star award at the 2007 Midsouth Emmys.

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