Clarence Thomas: “I was going to be a priest…”

The notoriously silent Supreme Court justice had a few things to say recently about the law and his faith during an interview at the National Archives to mark the 225th anniversary of the Constitution.

From the New York Times:

 For the most part, Justice Thomas spoke somberly about the weight of history and the burdens of his job. But he allowed himself the occasional bit of rueful humor.

“People say horrible things,” he said, smiling. “They say that, well, I’m not black. So I’m just a little doubtful I should say I’m black.”

He said he preferred a time when there was less identification of “who’s what,” and he recalled his youth.

“I was Catholic,” he said. “You talk about a minority within a minority within a minority: a black Catholic in Savannah, Ga.” Yet, he said, “nobody bothered me.”

The occasion for the interview was the Constitution’s 225th anniversary and the publication of a new book called “America’s Unwritten Constitution.” Its author, Akhil Reed Amar, a law professor at Yale, questioned Justice Thomas for more than an hour.

When Professor Amar mentioned that there are, for the first time in history, no Protestants on the Supreme Court, Justice Thomas changed the subject.

“We’re all from the Ivy League,” he said. “That seems to be more relevant than what faith we are.”

(Justice Thomas is one of six Catholics on the court. The other three justices are Jewish.)

He did say that religion played an important role in the nation’s founding and in his own life.

“I grew up in a religious environment, and I’m proud of it,” he said. “I was going to be a priest; I’m proud of it. And I thank God I believe in God, or I would probably be enormously angry right now.”

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Photo: Margot Shulman/National Archives