Do we need a Protestant on the Supreme Court?

John Paul Stevens is the only Supreme Court Justice who is a Protestant.  He will soon turn 90.   There are six Catholics, some liberal and some conservative, and two Jews.   And yet 51% of Americans are Protestant.  Lately, there has been an effort to diversify the court, so that now women, African-Americans, and Latinos are represented.  Once Justice Stevens dies or resigns, should he be replaced with a token Protestant?

High Court: Does religion still matter? – washingtonpost.com.

UPDATE: Daniel Gorman in his comment gives the right answer. And yet, isn’t it strange that Protestants, despite constituting a majority of the population, are so under-represented in those halls of learning and power. Used to, the W.A.S.P.’s (white anglo-saxon Protestants) constituted the power elite in this country. I don’t think they do anymore. Why do you think that is?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Daniel Gorman

    “. . .no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” U.S. Constitution, Article VI

  • Daniel Gorman

    “. . .no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” U.S. Constitution, Article VI

  • http://wipfandstock.com/store/As_Though_It_Were_Actually_True_A_Christian_Apologetics_Primer Matt C.

    I can’t say I’m particularly concerned about whether the Supreme Court reflects the beautiful mosaic of American diversity.

  • http://wipfandstock.com/store/As_Though_It_Were_Actually_True_A_Christian_Apologetics_Primer Matt C.

    I can’t say I’m particularly concerned about whether the Supreme Court reflects the beautiful mosaic of American diversity.

  • Steven

    I would rather have a justice who would actually adhere to the Constitution, instead of an inappropriate devotion to “precedence,” regardless of religious affiliation.

  • Steven

    I would rather have a justice who would actually adhere to the Constitution, instead of an inappropriate devotion to “precedence,” regardless of religious affiliation.

  • scots

    forget the SC, Protestants are under represented in Congress. After all, it was the Protestants of the Reformation that gave us that good work ethic. Imagine if that were represented in the nation’s capital.

  • scots

    forget the SC, Protestants are under represented in Congress. After all, it was the Protestants of the Reformation that gave us that good work ethic. Imagine if that were represented in the nation’s capital.

  • Jerry

    Protestant means nothing more than a follower of Jesus, not necessarily the Christ; who does not necessarily believe in God; and who does not recognize the Pope as the head of the church. Setting all constitutional issues aside, it’s difficult to say this group needs more representation on the Court.

    However, if we say we need more justices that follow the American civil religion as outlined by the founding fathers and by leaders up through the middle of the 20th century, then I can see that argument. The “American experiment is based upon the belief that God has created all men equal, and they are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

    This civil religion, as opposed to personal religion, is the very basis of the Constitution. To depart from a belief in a supreme god who conveys rights to individuals is unconstitutional. It’s not a matter of representation, but a matter of those who uphold the Constitution.

  • Jerry

    Protestant means nothing more than a follower of Jesus, not necessarily the Christ; who does not necessarily believe in God; and who does not recognize the Pope as the head of the church. Setting all constitutional issues aside, it’s difficult to say this group needs more representation on the Court.

    However, if we say we need more justices that follow the American civil religion as outlined by the founding fathers and by leaders up through the middle of the 20th century, then I can see that argument. The “American experiment is based upon the belief that God has created all men equal, and they are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

    This civil religion, as opposed to personal religion, is the very basis of the Constitution. To depart from a belief in a supreme god who conveys rights to individuals is unconstitutional. It’s not a matter of representation, but a matter of those who uphold the Constitution.

  • Peter Leavitt

    The ablest Protestant with qualifications for the Supreme Court would be Ken Starr, though it’s unlikely that he would ever be nominated. It’s doubtful that any president would consider a Protestant background as a political plus in nominating a Supreme Court justice, as Protestants lack politically correct status.

    As to the W.A.S.P.’s disproportionate influence on American affairs, that’s ancient history due to most of the more influential of them being interested in gentility and business affairs rather than government. Most of them have all but forgotten the narrative of a Christian America, a nation, as Chesterton remarked, with the soul of a church. To the extent that religion seriously influences American life, we have to rely on the evangelicals and to some extent such Catholics as Scalia, Roberts, and Thomas on the Supreme Court bench. The W.A.S.P. s are a non-entity.

  • Peter Leavitt

    The ablest Protestant with qualifications for the Supreme Court would be Ken Starr, though it’s unlikely that he would ever be nominated. It’s doubtful that any president would consider a Protestant background as a political plus in nominating a Supreme Court justice, as Protestants lack politically correct status.

    As to the W.A.S.P.’s disproportionate influence on American affairs, that’s ancient history due to most of the more influential of them being interested in gentility and business affairs rather than government. Most of them have all but forgotten the narrative of a Christian America, a nation, as Chesterton remarked, with the soul of a church. To the extent that religion seriously influences American life, we have to rely on the evangelicals and to some extent such Catholics as Scalia, Roberts, and Thomas on the Supreme Court bench. The W.A.S.P. s are a non-entity.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Glad to see no one took Veith’s bait and agreed that identity politics is a swell idea.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Glad to see no one took Veith’s bait and agreed that identity politics is a swell idea.

  • Winston Smith

    Protestant does not necessarily equal “believing Christian.” When Episcopalian Bishop Spong and Sarah Palin are both Protestants, the term is so flexible as to become meaningless.

  • Winston Smith

    Protestant does not necessarily equal “believing Christian.” When Episcopalian Bishop Spong and Sarah Palin are both Protestants, the term is so flexible as to become meaningless.

  • Ryan

    I would say, besides Ken Starr, that John Warwick Montgomery would be and able justice, and LCMS to boot.

  • Ryan

    I would say, besides Ken Starr, that John Warwick Montgomery would be and able justice, and LCMS to boot.

  • Luke

    It’s possible to be both protestant (whatever that means) and a woman, or protestant and non-white or protestant and of, say, Chinese heritage. It’s interesting how many read ‘protestant’ as white, anglo saxon men. It would be interesting to see a Muslim nominated to the Court.

  • Luke

    It’s possible to be both protestant (whatever that means) and a woman, or protestant and non-white or protestant and of, say, Chinese heritage. It’s interesting how many read ‘protestant’ as white, anglo saxon men. It would be interesting to see a Muslim nominated to the Court.

  • Economist Doug

    Given the goofy shape of mainstream Protestantism, I’m glad there aren’t any on the court.

    We traditional Protestants are a minority inside a minority.

  • Economist Doug

    Given the goofy shape of mainstream Protestantism, I’m glad there aren’t any on the court.

    We traditional Protestants are a minority inside a minority.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    tODD: :^).

    That said, given that Catholicism tends to add tradition to Scripture, it would seem to be well matched to the idea of stare decisis, while a Protestant with the doctrine of sola scriptura ought to tend to prefer the notion of original intent.

    Which is why, of course, that the most ardent proponents of original intent on the Court are the Catholics, Thomas and Roberts. OK, there are points where apparently one’s church membership doesn’t influence one’s politics/jurisprudence in predictable ways. :^)

    (or maybe there is something going on under the “label” of Catholic as well)

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    tODD: :^).

    That said, given that Catholicism tends to add tradition to Scripture, it would seem to be well matched to the idea of stare decisis, while a Protestant with the doctrine of sola scriptura ought to tend to prefer the notion of original intent.

    Which is why, of course, that the most ardent proponents of original intent on the Court are the Catholics, Thomas and Roberts. OK, there are points where apparently one’s church membership doesn’t influence one’s politics/jurisprudence in predictable ways. :^)

    (or maybe there is something going on under the “label” of Catholic as well)


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