U.S. Supreme Court

Should Obama Appoint a Protestant to the Supreme Court?

Fifty-one percent of Americans identify themselves as Protestants, but only one member of the U.S. Supreme Court claims that religion: John Paul Stevens, the justice deemed likely to retire at the end of the term.

Catholic justices have been in the majority on the U.S. Supreme Court since 2006, the Washington Post reports. With the confirmation of Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the court now has six Catholics. Two other justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer, were raised in the Jewish faith, although Breyer was married in an Anglican ceremony and has a daughter who is an Episcopal priest.

The Post considers whether the religious make-up of the court should affect the next court appointment. “Here’s the kind of question that might violate the rules you learned about proper dinner conversation: Does President Obama’s next Supreme Court nominee need to be a Protestant?” the Post asks.

The story notes scholars’ assessment that the justices’ liberal or conservative philosophies better predict their votes than religion. While she is Catholic, Sotomayor appears more likely to side with the court’s liberal wing, for example. And Catholics on the court who approved a law restricting abortion in 2007 have also defended capital punishment.

The court itself “thinks of itself as post-religious,” according to the story. Justice Antonin Scalia, for example, has said he would be “hard-pressed to tell you of a single opinion of mine that would have come out differently if I were not Catholic.”

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