Posted by: The moderator | April 7, 2010

Religion and the Supreme Court

Hooray to NPR for doing some digging and finding a truly interesting story. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens is considering retirement, a blessing for Obama who gets to make his second appointment and continues to refresh the court’s aging left-leaning judges (although having the confirmation process during an already nasty congressional election year will probably be excessively divisive). While justices are supposed to be non-partisan, we know several of the judges on the bench have well-defined political and social viewpoints that appear to influence their judicial opinions. NPR takes a look at a bias we often overlook when looking at the justices: religion. Stevens is the only Protestant on the court. Six of the current justices are Catholics, the largest number of Catholics that have ever been on the court. The other two justices are Jewish. Of the names being tossed around to replace Stevens, all are either Jewish or Catholic. While Obama’s short list is unknown, there’s a distinct possibility that the future court will not have a Protestant.

Does it matter? Republicans have appointed almost all of the Catholics currently serving on the court, which some commentators claim is due to a supposedly reliable pro-life conviction, but Obama’s most recent appointment, Sonia Sotomayor, is a Catholic. People tend to agree that having more women and ethnic minorities represented on the court is a good thing, but what about religious diversity? Should the president consider replacing Stevens with another Protestant to keep some religious diversity on the bench? How about a Muslim or Buddhist judge?

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