Posted by: bridget | 25 April 2007

Five Catholic Justices

Many commentators have complained that the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Carhart v. Gonzales was motivated by religious ideals instead of by jurisprudence. The evidence: the five-member majority (Kennedy, Alito, Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas) are all Catholic. The four dissenting justices are Jewish or marginally Protestant.

While the issue of judicial bias, especially when motivated by religious tenets, merits some examination, this is the first time that those judges have been accused of casting their votes based on religious viewpoints. Many Supreme Court cases have been decided on a 5-4 margin with those same justices; that is why Kennedy is considered the swing vote. Before Alito’s  and Roberts’ appointments, Justice O’Connor (Anglican/Episcopalian) and Chief Justice Rehnquist (Lutheran) voted alongside Justices Kennedy, Scalia, and Thomas in many opinions.  There were no cries of the Pope (and the spirit of Martin Luther and the Church of England) improperly influencing the decision.  The fact that Justices Alito and Roberts replaced those two justices and happen to vote the same way is hardly indicative of religious motivation.  A bankruptcy, criminal, or Sarbanes-Oxley decision that is decided on 5-4 grounds would not be undermined on allegations of religious bias; yet, this case is. Furthermore, the original Roe decision, which departed from precedent in a radical way, was not criticised as being “anti-Catholic.”

Unless the Carhart opinion quotes the Pope, the Bible, or any other religious source to the exclusion of legal sources, or radically departs from any understanding of constitutional law, there is little reason to psychoanalyse the justices based on a rather typical voting pattern.



  1. This is the antithesis of hate mongers of the KKK deriding President Kennedy and Governor Al Smith unfitness to public service because of their religious views. Boomerang political kharma. You’ve got to love it.

  2. Um… what? I honestly do not understand your comment.

    The KKK is hardly involved in the Carhart decision… I don’t think that Scalia is running about in a white hooded robe.

  3. Well there is only one class of people that the left hates more than Conservatives and Republicans and it is Christians …. no surprise here………….Next Stop Lauderdale

  4. Justice Black was a huge anti-Catholic bigot. It colored lots of his decisions on the establishment clause.

  5. BTW Theo, I presented you the thinking blogger award.

  6. Ditto that, Steve.

    I did not know that about Justice Black. I think I’m most like him, though – the “tall but narrow” justice, as I recall.

    Thank you for the blogger award!! :) :)

  7. Sorry I was away and failed to reply.

    The venom and “anti-religious” bigotry displayed by some people who happen to be religious, particularly towards the Roman Church, is the antithesis of the claptrap that was levelled against JFK and Al Smith during their Presidential runs.

    The hate is still the same, but is now from the so called “enlightened” left wing, rather than the KKK of the past. Hate is hate, no matter who spews it forth.

  8. Hi Voice,

    That makes more sense. ;) Yes, the anti-Catholic crap was leveled against people on both sides of the aisle.

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