Elena Kagan's successful confirmation to the Supreme Court "would result in six Roman Catholic and three Jewish justices. Many argue that because Protestantism remains America's largest religious affiliation, the top court should have at least one Protestant justice," according to a piece written by Corey J. Hodges, pastor of New Pilgrim Baptist Church, for the Salt Lake Tribune. What do you think? Is it really necessary for the court to have a Protestant judge simply because it is considered America's largest religious affiliation? Overall, does the court's religious makeup have a significant impact, in the end, on how it interprets the law and makes decisions?
Does a Supreme Court justice's religion matter? The answer is maybe.
Personally, I'm not as concerned about the religious makeup of the court as I am about the judicial capabilities and philosophies of the justices who sit on the court.
It is interesting to note, however, that of the current six Catholic justices on the court, four are conservative, one is a swing vote, and the other liberal. Assuming Elena Kagan is confirmed, all three Jewish members would be liberal. From this, one could argue that religion does matter on the court, but does religious affiliation alone dictate a justice's judicial philosophy?
By analogy, let me compare two prominent Latter-day Saints politicians, both of whom are active members of the Latter-day Saints Church. One is Mitt Romney, who ran as a Republican presidential candidate in 2008 and is considered a conservative. The other is Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the current Senate majority leader and a liberal Democrat.
It would be safe to say that these two politicians would agree on few issues, despite their common religious affiliation. On a position that they may agree on? Abortion. Romney actually changed his position on this issue over time, which may be more of a reaction to political forces rather than religious forces.
It is fair to say that the LDS community tends to be more conservative than most, but it is incorrect to conclude that all LDS members are conservative or think the same. The same can be said of other religious affiliations.
In contrast, if a nominated justice were to come from a religious tradition that was not considered mainstream for example, an Evangelical Christian, a Mormon or a Jehovah's Witness, religious affiliation likely would be a major topic of debate at a confirmation hearing. In fact, that religious affiliation could be the determining factor in the confirmation, regardless of the justice's other qualifications or positions.
For better or worse, a justice's religious affiliation may matter, depending on the circumstances.
RICK CALLISTER is a member of the La Cañada II Ward of the La Crescenta Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Reach him at (213) 412-2804.
Isn't it interesting, in spite of popular paranoia over the public expression of religious views, that every Supreme Court judge has an identifiable faith? And that their faith is an issue of public discussion? And that's not surprising. Our faith determines how we judge both large and small issues. It informs our decisions about what is right or wrong, fair or unfair. "By the book" justices are required to make decisions on the basis of the Constitution, but we all know that personal world views play into every decision as well.
Several biblical examples help us identify good judges. Moses' father-in-law urged him to delegate his judicial responsibilities to "able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain" (Exodus 18:21). Deborah judged Israel as a prophetess and a woman of bold faith in God's promises. In Jesus' parable, the unrighteous judge "did not fear God, and did not respect man," and gave legal protection to an oppressed widow only because she wore him out with her persistent, repeated requests. Isaiah 11:4 speaks about Jesus' judgment when he returns to rule the Earth: "But with righteousness He will judge the poor, and decide with fairness for the afflicted of the Earth; and He will strike the Earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked."
Whether or not they're identified as "Protestant," our country will be blessed by God in direct, visible ways if we appoint judges who "do homage to the Son" of God (Psalm 2:12). But at the moment, I don't see a practical, legal way of establishing a Protestant "quota" for the Supreme Court.
The REV. JON BARTA is pastor of Valley Baptist Church in Burbank. Reach him at (818) 845-7871.
It seems like a balancing act to keep the line between church and state.
Let us affirm that the right and perfect person will replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens. Let us trust God to direct all concerned in this process, affirming that the highest good for all concerned will manifest.
In the ideal, we all desire a person of integrity, who will listen to their heart in rendering decisions on cases in the Supreme Court, regardless of religious affiliation.
The REV. JERI LINN is pastor of Unity Church of the Valley in Montrose. Reach her at (818) 249-4396.
Given that the sole task of the Supreme Court is to judge whether acts are constitutional, it would seem that its religious affiliations should have little influence toward that end. It's not supposed to make or reinterpret laws, or behave with religious or political biases, so whether the justices claim one affiliation over another hopefully shouldn't be something for which to get overly concerned.
In Theory: Should a justice's religion be a supreme factor?
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