It’s Sunday. Do You Know Where Your Supreme Court Justices Are?

Six of the U.S. Supreme Court members spent the day attending Red Mass — a special service for law professionals that has been held since 1953.

The Mass requests guidance from the Holy Spirit for all who seek justice, and offers the opportunity to reflect on what Catholics believe is the God-given power and responsibility of all in the legal profession.

Who attended?

Chief Justice John Roberts, Sonia Sotomayor, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Stephen Breyer, and Samuel Alito.

Breye, who is Jewish, has attended this service before.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is also Jewish, has her reasons for not attending:

… Ginsberg said she grew tired of being lectured to by Catholic officials.

“I went one year, and I will never go again, because this sermon was outrageously anti-abortion,” Ginsburg said in the book “Stars of David: Prominent Jews talk About Being Jewish” by author Abigail Pogrebin.

Clarence Thomas, the sixth Roman Catholic on the court, didn’t attend. I’m not sure why…

It’s not illegal for the justices to attend church, but I am troubled by this special outreach to politicians and judges. It sounds like an easy way to curry favor toward Catholic issues.

Critics of the service, however, find the attendance of leading decision-makers, including members of the highest court in the land, to be inappropriate.

“The truth is, this was set up as a way to basically lecture and give information to the justices,” said the Rev. Barry Lynn, president of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. “There is no other institution that has this special way to talk to the justices on the Supreme Court.”

Lynn, an ordained minister with the United Church of Christ, noted the Mass was begun after several high court decisions that were disapproved of by the archdiocese.

“They figured if they got all the justices together and chatted them up in a worship service, they might be able to convince them to see the law their way,” he said.

This is influence no other religious group (or non-religious group) has — it’s influence none of those groups should have — and it’s very disturbing that more justices don’t take the hard-lined stance of Justice Ginsberg.

(Thanks to Loyal for the link!)

  • http://redheadedskeptic.com Laura

    I think this issue does kind of blur the line between church and state, but prohibiting it would prohibit the exercise of religion, so I think that would also be unconstitutional. Since it is in no way required and churches are allowed to reach out to whomever they want, I don’t have a problem with it. Those who sympathize with Catholic issues before will continue to do so after, and vice versa. I don’t think it is going to convince anyone of anything. You don’t get to be a Supreme Court justice by being so easily persuaded that one service is going to make much of a difference.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    No, this practice should not be prohibited. But someone ought to suggest to the justices of the Supreme Court that they are harming their own images and that of American justice by allowing an event like this to promulgate the image that they are beholden to certain special interests.

  • Jack

    You’re kidding yourself if you think an annual mass significantly influences the jurisprudential thinking of seasoned legal professionals. It would be one thing if juries went to mass like this before a case or if the SC went to these before every case. But the degree of influence this mass has on any decision the SC makes is negligible.

  • http://www.atheistnexus.org/profile/StephanGoodwin Stephan Goodwin

    No, this practice should not be prohibited. But someone ought to suggest to the justices of the Supreme Court that they are harming their own images and that of American justice by allowing an event like this to promulgate the image that they are beholden to certain special interests.

    Hah, as if the United States Supreme court’s image was not complete sh*t to anyone who would care about this much anyways.

    For us non-believers, their inability to uphold church-state separation is unacceptable (well, I’ll be fair, it is unacceptable to me. If you don’t have an issue, okay, but I’m confused as to how you couldn’t).

    For Catholic-hating believers, well they are already Catholic so what difference does a Mass make?

    Eh, maybe I’m just overly cynical about the Supreme Court, what with their “grandfather clauses” for religious crap on public lands to their “Bush has more equal protection than Gore does” nonsense, I expect nothing like real judicial impartiality from this crew.

  • http://jessicasideways.com Jessica Sideways

    *sigh* It is so embarrassing that psychopaths are running my country. But then again, what’s new?

  • http://deleted Siamang

    But the degree of influence this mass has on any decision the SC makes is negligible.

    And yet…. they attend. Strange, huh?

    It’s like a big meeting where the most powerful people in the country are … ahem… expected to attend. And then they hear a sermon about how they’re … ahem…. expected to rule…. and then they go away, and somehow we’re not supposed to think there’s something altogether fishy about it, or that they’re going to remain impartial when their very action in attending says that it’s not.

    Anyway. Let’s say that tomorrow I announce that I want all the Supremes to come hear me give a speech on how I think they should rule. Will they show up?

    Nope? Why? Because I don’t pretend to have God’s authority.

  • medussa

    Let’s just assume for a second that I wanted an afternoon during which I had the undivided attention of the Supreme Court Justices. An entire afternoon during I which I would say, preach the lesbian agenda, or talk about a woman’s right to choose, or the rights and plights of immigrants or atheists.
    I can’t imagine how I would convince the Justices to attend, but if I were successful, can you imagine the outcry in this country? The indignation of those whose opinion was different? The screaming about how gays and lesbians/atheists/loose women were dominating the Justices’ time? About how we were trying to undermine the integrity of their neutrality? etc.

    Yeah, I’m outraged. I agree it shouldn’t be made illegal for them to attend, but I find it outrageous that the Catholic Church is ONCE AGAIN feeling entitled to offer services that they would find offensive if they were offered by anyone else…

  • Christophe Thill

    Red Mass? It’s a communist thing… ?

    And what’s with this “God-given power” thing? I thought divine right had been out of fashion for at least the last 2 centuries?

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    Do they go for a laugh do you think. I’ve always considered the hats that the Catholic Priests wear to be the height of silly head wear. For someone who wears a pirate hat even when in the shower I find it refreshing that someone has the audacity to outdo me in outrageous headgear.

    In England High Court judges and barristers (not the coffee making kind) wear wigs that are nearly as silly as Catholic Priests hats or nuns penguin outfits. Maybe the Supreme Court Justices are getting tips for a new uniform hat.

    We all need to relax from time to time and church is cheaper than a comedy club. You can hear politically incorrect humour and no-one will comment. Gay jokes, jokes about women, child molester jokes. No Justice would survive going to a comedy club to listen to that sort of thing.

    What’s that, it isn’t a joke? Oh dear.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Red Mass – reminds me of The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allen Poe.

  • Spurs Fan

    Good debate all around, but I have to say that I find Justice Ginsburg’s comments to be at best awkward. I applaud her desire to flee the mass, but am confused by her admonition that the statements that caused her to leave were “outrageously anti-abortion”. For those of pro-choicers who fight against the false label of “pro-abortion” this sort of comment really sets us back.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    You’re kidding yourself if you think an annual mass significantly influences the jurisprudential thinking of seasoned legal professionals.

    This sounds like just the sort of excuse that advertisers use about their commercials. Yet they continue to pump billions into advertising every year.

  • AK

    How about starting a RED MASS FOR REASON parallel to catholic mass and inviting the justices over every year. I am sure Ruth Ginsberg may come to begin with?

    Any takers in washington to fund something like this for the next supreme court session.

    If they dont attend, we get to sue them for not attending the atheist mass and promoting religion while in a state role…

  • muggle

    It’s unsettling…

    And yet I found every one of the comments above mine right.

    Have to say though at the bottom, I’m mostly with siamang here. Something funny is afoot.

    However, it’s done in legal wrappings and there’s not much you can do about it. Probably makes it all the more unsettling.


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