July 30, 2005

Roberts and (just the right amount of) religion.

Peter Steinfels has a piece about Supreme Court nominee John Roberts and religion:
Consider what are already becoming routine descriptions - that Judge Roberts and his wife, Jane Sullivan Roberts, are devout Catholics but don't wear their faith on their sleeves; that Judge Roberts hews to his religion but keeps it separate from his legal judgments; that the couple's faith, as one priest who knows them put it, "would affect their personal lives, but they are very professional in their work."
It seems we want our public figures to have some religion but not too much.


Michael Hayne said...

It seems as though Roberts has such a "squeaky-clean" past, that he refuses to submit and record of having one.

I'm just relieved that Bush didn't go with his first choice of nominating "Judge Mills Lane." Seriously though, let's just hope that religion isn't on the menu (I'm still full from Terry Shiavo yet).

Endymion said...

How can one keep one's religion separate from one's judgments?

One's religion surely colours one's world-view as it imposes some very fundamental assumptions. Would you want to fly long-distance with a pilot who's religion held that the earth was flat, however much he protested that 'he was very professional about his work'?

Indeed, I would suggest it is a very rare man (or woman) who holds to any religion 'devoutly' who is able to be aware exactly how much of their world view - their sense of morality, ethics or 'right-and-wrong'- arises from their religion for, after all, if it doesn't arise from that where does it come from?

Judges who apply the strict letter of the law and who are bound by precedents set by their peers and superior courts do not, perhaps, have much freedom to impose their personal morality but where, as I understand is the case in the US Supreme Court, the judges are essentially law-makers what other guide than their own (religiously-based) morality do they have.

Should not, then, the Supreme Court consist quite deliberately of a Catholic Judge arguing a Catholic morality, a Protestant Judge arguing a protestant morality, a Jewish Judge arguing ..., a Moslem Judge, a Buddhist judge, an Atheist Judge, and so on, with the outcome, as now, resting on the will of the majority?

John A said...

"It seems we want our public figures to have some religion but not too much."

Well, yes. Most religions (excluding such aberrations as Thuggee) supply at base a morality acceptable to all - but specifics are often at odds. For the most part, we manage to rub along in our country's society - mostly by not trying more than words to establish a particular religious view, although I can think of some laws (e.g. Sunday Closing laws) that did/do so.

In re Judge Roberts, I think he keeps the morality of his religion in mind, which I don't think is entirely a bad thing, while not allowing it to override secular morality and law. I expect him to continue to be against murder, but not to outlaw condoms...

Unknown said...

This reminds me vaguely of how The West Wing has authorized conservatism; we see a conservative principle being developed for an entire episode, but it's only acceptable once one of the stars says it is.