Thursday, April 26, 2007

Charles Stanley for SCOTUS?

In all the anti-Catholic backlash from certain quarters over the Partial-Birth Abortion decision last week, and the complaints that a majority of the Court is Catholic, I think a gorilla in the corner is being ignored. If we're going to play identity politics with the Court, how about the fact that there are no Baptists on the Supreme Court? [Full disclosure, I'm a Southern Baptist now attending a nondenominational church]. Baptists are the largest Protestant denomination in America, making up over 16% of the population. Despite this fact, there have been three Baptist Supreme Court Justices in the 200+ year history of the United States. The last was Hugo Black.

But it's not just the Baptists who are underrepresented on the Court. Although Lutherans make up 5% of the population, the only Lutheran in the Court's history was Chief Justice Rehnquist. And no Pentecostal has ever been on the Court. While Presbyterians have been overrepresented in Supreme Court history, the last Presbyterian on the Supreme Court bench was Lewis Powell.

What does this mean? Perhaps it shows that political judgments have been made - particularly in recent history - that adherents of at least some evangelical Protestant denominations would face even more scrutiny and suspicion of their beliefs than would a Catholic nominee. Maybe the real problem is media and elite bias against sincere religious believers generally and Catholics are just getting the vitriol at the moment because they happen to be carrying the [Holy] water on the Supreme Court right now. The reaction of certain quarters to the Partial-Birth Abortion decision then may be more anti-Christian than anti-Catholic. As much anti-Catholic bigotry as is being displayed in the wake of the Partial-Birth Abortion decision, I have to think the attacks on the Justices' faith would have been no less rabid had Justice Roberts been a Southern Baptist. But then Tony Auth's cartoon wouldn't have been quite as cute if he had to exchange Justice Roberts' mitre for an Annie Armstrong offering envelope.