Friday, May 14, 2010

Supreme Court

A week or so ago I heard Michael Savage raving about someone who had brought up the religious/denominational makeup of the Supreme Court and comparing him to Nazis for bringing it up. I, nevertheless, think it is a curious subject. Before discussing it further let me put forward this disclaimer -- in agreement with our Baptist forefathers like John Leland, I do believe there should be no religious test for public office. In spite of that, I still find it interesting that, should Solicitor General Elena Kagan be confirmed to the court as she likely will be, the religious makeup of the Supreme Court will be 6 Catholics, 3 Jews and zero Protestants*.

It is hard to be sure, since numbers vary at different sources, but of these three groups it appears roughly 52% of Americans are Protestants, 24% are Catholics and 2% are Jewish. So if we were just selecting randomly, the majority of the court might likely be Protestant. But, as James Piereson points out in "The Diversity Scam and the Supreme Court," there is "nothing random about the selection process".

Why did the religious makeup of the Court wind up this way? Coincidence? Conspiracy? Camaraderie? Chaos? (God is in control of it all, but what human means has He used in so controlling it?)

It is suggested by Piereson and others that it may be because "elite" law schools have fewer Protestants than Jews or Catholics. "On other important grounds, the Supreme Court appears as a surprisingly monolithic group of justices. Nearly all attended elite colleges and proceeded from there to a few Ivy League law schools. They come from either a few northeastern states or from California. Considered as a group, the absence of genuine diversity on the Court is more than a little stunning." (James Piereson in The Diversity Scam and the Supreme Court) "Our obsession with diversity has produced a governing class of monolithic sameness...Eight of the nine justices (including Kagan) attended either Harvard or Yale Law Schools; the ninth—Ginsburg—attended Columbia. Just three Ivy League law schools have supplied the legal education of the entire Supreme Court. What kind of diversity is that?"

I am opposed to the current mentality that we need judges that are sympathetic to certain groups or viewpoints. A judge should be morally and legally qualified and render verdicts according to the law. As far as the religious angle, you can't really tell much about a person's worldview based on the denominational affiliation (excepting possibly small groups with very tight beliefs). Catholic, Protestant and Jewish legal views range from one end to the other of the spectrum of American public opinion. The current court displays that.

But still, for all the claims of diversity -- we've got to have a woman, a black, a Latina, etc., etc. -- the court has been filled with a pretty tight little group which does not come from across the full spectrum of America, either geographically, theologically, or philosophically. If they judge rightly, it won't matter. Ultimately, they should be highly knowledgeable of the law, and specifically according to the Constitution there should good moral character: "The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour..."

*Public media reporting this uses Protestant to refer to any non-Catholic Christian denominations, if I understand correctly. Other than complying with the public understanding on this topic, we do not use the term "Protestant" to refer to Anabaptists such as Baptists, Mennonites, Amish, etc. provides this religious breakdown of the Supreme Court up to this day:
Episcopalian 35
Other Protestant 28
Presbyterian 19
Catholic 12 (6 of the 12 Catholics are currently serving)
Unitarian 10
Jewish 7
No church 1

President Obama said with Kagan's appointment there would be "A Court that would be more inclusive, more representative, more reflective of us as a people than ever before." How will Elena Kagan’s presence on the Supreme Court make the Court "more representative"?


Mark said...

I think you nailed it.

Anonymous said...

I know the terms "diversity" and "inclusiveness," were brought up recently on another topic. As with this one, I see nothing diverse about it. It is nothing more than another effort to unleash a liberal, secularized agenda through an apointee to the Supreme Court.

I would imagine the analysis of the religious breakdown of the Court through the years would be quite surprising to some. Sadly, I believe this is where part of the problem lies. Christians have often been called the "silent majority." We tend to go along with the status quo and whatever is popular at the moment. It makes you wonder who will be the next "flavor of the month" in politics. A generation is being raised up which I am afraid is losing any element of social consiousness. The web page has taken the place of the Holy Page.

I must admit that I was surprised of the drastic change in religious affiliation of the Court when you look at the pattern from the beginning. The comment about Amish not being Protestant brings this to mind. From what I know of the Amish, they will tell you that being Amish is not a religion, but a way of life. However, their theology would certainly be construed as Protestant.