Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens announced his retirement today, and so begins a season of speculation, with people who have no access to the decision making process nonetheless engaging in rampant speculation about who the nominated replacement will be. Once a nominee is chosen, people will speculate again about what kind of rulings the nominee might make, although during confirmation hearings the nominee will simply state, over and over, that it’s not wise to speculate on hypotheticals, and that the Constitution should be applied based upon what it actually says.
USA Today opens up the campaign of absurdity today with an article entitled Does The U.S. Supreme Court Need Another Protestant? The remaining Supreme Court Justices consist of 6 Catholic Christians and 2 adherents of Judaism. The presumption underlying USA Today’s article is that Protestants can’t be fairly served by the Judicial Branch of our federal government unless there is one of their number serving as a Supreme Court Justice.
If it’s true, however, that people of a religious identity aren’t fairly served by the law unless they’re represented by one of their own ideological ilk on the Supreme Court, why did USA Today focus in particular on the needs of Protestant Christians? There have been plenty of Protestants on the Supreme Court over the course of American history, after all.
There has never been a Buddhist Supreme Court Justice. No Hindus have served on the high court. Neither have any Muslims ever been allowed a seat on the bench, or Rastafarians, neo-pagans, Wiccans, Spiritualists, or practitioners of Native American traditions.
The Supreme Court of the United States has been the exclusive property of Jews and Christians. So now that, for the first time in American history, there might not be a Protestant Christian in the high court, we’re all supposed to be outraged on their behalf? Non-Jewish non-Christians make up almost half the population in some states. If religious identity is going to be used as a criterion for choosing a new Supreme Court Justice, Protestants ought to wait at the back of the line.
But then, the Constitution clearly states that there shall be no religious test for public office. So, why don’t we leave the religious, or non-religious, identities of Supreme Court nominees in the private sphere, where they belong?