September 3, 2009

If Justice Stevens retires, won't Obama need to appoint a Protestant?

I know people have trouble looking at the issue of religious diversity on the Supreme Court. I raised this question when Justice Souter stepped down, and Obama's nomination put a 6th Catholic on the Court.

Here I am on a May, 4, 2009 Bloggingheads with Emily Bazelon, raising the question question of religious diveristy in the wake of the Souter retirement. (This recorded on May, 4, 2009 , before Obama had nominated Sotormayor.)



Now, Justice Stevens is the only Justice who was raised in the Protestant tradition. The other 2 Justices are Jewish. I anticipate that there will be little discussion of this, but I find it hard to believe that Obama will not see the lack of diversity as a problem and choose a Protestant.

47 comments:

madawaskan said...

How about one for the Buddhists?

but I find it hard to believe that Obama will not see the lack of diversity as a problem and choose a Protestant.

You gotta have faith-it's like a bad George Michael song.

PatCA said...

"but I find it hard to believe that Obama will not see the lack of diversity as a problem and choose a Protestant."

Or a Muslim?

Chase said...

There's a Protestant Seat on the Supreme Court?

EDH said...

The lady doth protestant too much, methinks.

elHombre said...

I don't know about diversity, but would it be useful to have a Protestant on the Court?

Tiny Jones, Come Home said...

Oh, Annie, don't you hope so? It would be wonderful if our President would install a Protestant who followed the teachings of great thinkers like Harry Emerson Fosdick and Henry Sloane Coffin. Now is the time to renounce fundamentalism and reaffirm a proper alignment with mainline Protestantism. I and my friends from church will be praying to the higher powers in which we believe that this will happen. Pray too, Annie!

MadisonMan said...

I think it's a good question, and if there's a press conference, I hope a "journalist" asks it, because I think the answer would be very interesting.

Would someone who coverts to Catholicism really count though? Didn't Clarence Thomas grow up non-Catholic?

Bissage said...

It’s not so very important that there’s a Protestant on SCOTUS so long as there’s at least one who looks like a Protestant.

SteveR said...

To the extent that the person is decidely "liberal" and satisfies the requirement of being a member of some appropriate aggrieved community, it probably should be a Protestant.

garage mahal said...

How about an agnostic? *Gasp*

Henry said...

It’s not so very important that there’s a Protestant on SCOTUS so long as there’s at least one who looks like a Protestant.

LOL. Maybe he can reappoint Souter!

Aaron said...

Sorry, but we absolutely should not have quotas. instead we should have the best justices, be them male or female, white, black, asian, etc., catholic, jewish, etc.

traditionalguy said...

But Professor, there are no current Justices raised in the Marxist/Humanist Faith, and Obama also has his loyalty to consider to that great Faith Tradition that his Gradmother raised his mother and himself in.

froggyprager said...

Now that he picked a minority woman, I bet Obama would pick his white guy buddy Cass Sunstein next. I don't know his religion.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Why not a Muslim? After all Obama told the world we were one of the biggest Muslim nation's in the world.

Obviously with that kind of demographic the Religion of Pieces needs to be represented on our higghest court.

Aaron said...

Btw, no one is bringing up the need to balance all of these christians and jews with at least a token Satanist.

Or at least a worshiper of Zuul.

And what about the Scientologists?

(In case you missed it, i am mocking the concept of diversity quotas.)

Crimso said...

If he really wanted diversity he would nominate someone who has no education or training in law whatsoever.

Joseph said...

I think the Protestant vs. Catholic demographic marker has much less salience today than it did a generation ago. Religious diversity on the Court is an interesting question but I don't think the lack of reporting on the issue is due to some taboo or political correctness (the media showed no shame in discussing the sex/race issue in the Sotomayor coverage). Its not covered because the people that would presumably care the most about it (Protestants), simply don't see this as a problem.

To the extent diverse religious perspectives are valuable to judicial decisionmaking, the Catholic and Protestant perspectives are not that radically different. On an intellectual/academic level, you can certainly cite examples of differences, but I don't think many people really have a very developed intellectual relationship with their religion.

To the extent diverse cultural perspectives are useful to judicial decisionmaking, those differences are much less salient than they were a generation ago, and much, much less salient than differences on account of a person's experience of their sex or race.

JonMichael S said...

Isn't it just possible that the same people who are interested in abiding by many large legalistic constructions about personal life that are constantly up for debate would also gravitate toward being judge?

TRO said...

No way he picks a Muslim. Or an Atheist. Not enough of either in America to be of any political use to him. A protestant seems likely, but a black and/or woman is a very good bet.

mccullough said...

Isn't it enough that 42 of the 43 men to become president have been protestant?

Smilin' Jack said...

I find it hard to believe that Obama will not see the lack of diversity as a problem and choose a Protestant.

If he wants some real diversity he ought to think outside the box in choosing the cult of the next Justice. He should appoint a Scientologist or a Raellian or one of those Falun Gong guys. Actually, in those Supreme Court robes I think a Whirling Dervish would look really cool.

John Lynch said...

I suppose it's too hard to just nominate the best judge, or at least the best liberal judge?

Obama needs a Roberts. Everyone knows in their heart of hearts that Sotomayor was not the best qualified judge in the country.

Freeman Hunt said...

How about an agnostic? *Gasp*

We already have that in the President himself. At least, that's my best guess.

Robert said...

From an enlightened progressive perspective, we should expect a properly representative person. Perhaps a female Asian Muslim or American Indiana Animist.

traditionalguy said...

If a President Palin were to appoint a highly qualified traditional Protestant believer, like former Attorney General John Ashcroft, then that would be a fun confirmation to watch. Otherwise the Protestant designation means a Mutant ( my new favorite word)of a traditional Protestant, and that would be a meaningless difference and would upset no one.

rhhardin said...

The court needs a Gnostic.

Rockport Conservative said...

Can you say WASP? I bet he can't either.

traditionalguy said...

rhhardin...Is being a Gnostic a genetic defect? There must be a Gnostic gene that can be tested for, and then those folks can all be moved to San Francisco before a Gnostic Pandemic starts.

Too many jims said...

MadisonMan said...
Would someone who coverts to Catholicism really count though? Didn't Clarence Thomas grow up non-Catholic?


From what I recall (and "confirmed" by Wikipedia) Thomas was born into a protestant family, raised Roman Catholic but left sometime during or after college. He then returned to the church after he was on the court for some time. I suppose this makes Thomas the last protestant Justice appointed and confirmed to the Supreme Court (though he may not have been "raised in the Protestant tradition.")

But really, let us not focus on Thomas, everyone knows in their heart of hearts that Thomas was not the best qualified judge in the country when he was nominated.

former law student said...

What's Hillary Clinton's religion?

Being Secy of State is proving too stressful. She needs a nice 9-5 job -- for life.

The real missing diversity is law school diversity. At least Harriet Miers would have represented a mid-ranked school, SMU. The real question:

"If Justice Stevens retires, won't Obama need to appoint a Northwestern grad?"

former law student said...

everyone knows in their heart of hearts that Thomas was not the best qualified judge in the country when he was nominated.

Thomas was the best qualified on the axes of pigment and party.

vw: ughtest -- what you say when the prof calls a pop quiz.

John Thacker said...

But really, let us not focus on Thomas, everyone knows in their heart of hearts that Thomas was not the best qualified judge in the country when he was nominated.

Certainly neither was Souter nor O'Connor. Nor Sotomayor, nor Alito, though both were closer. Yet people just want to talk about Justice Thomas.

And I'd take Thomas's opinions over all four of those, both for reasoning and for the pure pleasure of reading them. It's pretty remarkable considering that he didn't even grow up speaking standard English, but the Geechee/Gullah creole.

The best qualified judges don't get nominated, because they've said or done something controversial.

section9 said...

NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

MORE POPERY!!!!

Everyone knows that the Catholics on the Court secretly take their orders from the Curia!

That's why Roe v. Wade has been overturned and women are in back alleys getting abortions with coathangers!

Oh, wait.....

Oclarki said...

How about someone who comes from the Interior West or somewhere outside of the East Coast? What about someone who didn't attend an ivy league school?

jimbino said...

Forget the religious diversity already. We need a justice who has been trained in math, science, economics or ANYTHING not wishy-washy like English, History, Political Science, Foreign Affairs and so on and on and on. Breyer is skilled in math and science, but when was the last time we had anyone on SCOTUS with an advanced degree in something substantial?

Kirby Olson said...

Rehnquist was a Missouri Synod Lutheran. Deep religious background provides wisdom.

We'd probably get a mealy-mouthed cryto-communist who squeaks from time to time about Protestantism, at best, out of this prez.

I'm with the traditionalguy, on this one.

Obama is as lite on religion, as he is in the beer that he drinks.

Maguro said...

Appointing a communist would certainly add diversity...maybe Obama should consider Van Jones.

Oxbay said...

I don't think Cass Sunstein could get the votes even in this extreme left wing Senate. He's kooky to the kooks.

I think Obama's next appointment will be an extreme left wing African American notorious for hating Clarence Thomas.

Cedarford said...

Seriously, I think Althouse is right.

Protestants are about 60% of the country, and still comprise the majorities in elective office in 41-44 States.

And just as importantly, come from the Heartland of the country which has very different values than the East Coast corridor and California that all the other Justices were born in, or were educated in then lived and worked in for most of their adult lives before their SCOTUS selection (Roberts, Thomas).

Just as having 7 Catholics and 2 Jews, or 6 Catholics and 3 Jews (2 of the 3 top contenders mentioned besides Sotomayor were Jewish) - would not be very good...

Historically, the Court and the President reflected an attempt to spread final Top Legal Power amongst the States. And amongst various law schools and Court Districts. The present concentration on just a few law schools, and people from just a few states is probably not healthy.

Father Martin Fox said...

"A protestant seems likely, but a black and/or woman is a very good bet."

How about Janice Rogers Brown?

Heehee.

Jeff with one 'f' said...

He'll nominate a Unitarian and the press will decide that means "liberal Protestant".

William said...

For some time now, the KKK and white militia units have been accepting Catholics as members. This was not part of a big tent outreach program. Catholic/Protestant is no longer a meaningful cultural line in this country. It's like discriminating on a blue eye/brown eye axis.....I would prefer that the KKK remain loyal to their roots and continue to hate Catholics, but there you have it. The KKK is more tolerant than Althouse.

TRO said...

"Catholic/Protestant is no longer a meaningful cultural line in this country.'

Tell that to my Southern Baptist in-laws . . . they are still upset because I, a Catholic, not only married their daughter, but somehow managed to make her convert.

Like I could make her do anything she didn't want to - HA!

peter hoh said...

Have any Texans served on the Supreme Court?

The biographical fact sheet I found did not list the state in which the justices were born and/or raised. Rather, it listed the state in which they were living when they were nominated.

Kirk Parker said...

Father Martin--you 'da man!!!

JRB, be still my beating heart....



wv: roundoe--hmm, do you think Bambi's mother's thighs are big enough to protect her from heart disease?

raf said...

Perhaps Ann is laying the groundwork that true diversity requires, no, demands:

1. Non-catholic
2. Non-coastal-elite law school
3. Female (still underrepresented)
4. Academic, rather than judge
5. (Cruelly) Independent, rather than liberal or conservative.

WV: filfuln. filler/foolin' ?