Monday, October 31, 2005

Good News: Evangelicals Give the Supreme Court a Catholic Majority

Evangelical Methodist George Bush has nominated Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. He joins John Roberts, now Chief Justice, who President Bush had nominated earlier this year. Both are Roman Catholics. If Alito is confirmed, the Supreme Court would have a Catholic majority for the first time ever. The evangelical Protestant wing of the Republican party forced the President to drop the evangelical Protestant (and Catholic convert) Harriet Miers, and instead nominate the way Catholic Alito.

How recently would that have been a fighting issue? In 1960, John F. Kennedy’s mild Catholicism was a major campaign issue among conservative Protestants. Last year, John F. Kerry’s mild Catholicism barely made a ripple. He didn’t even take a majority of the Catholic vote – which proves that there is no “Catholic vote.”

Will the Court Catholics vote as a block? Not very likely. Justice Kennedy and Justice Scalia may be of the same communion, but they don’t share much else.

Which proves the point that Robert Wuthnow argued in The Restructuring of American Religion: the crucial divide in American religion today is no longer between Catholics and Protestants, or Christians and non-Christians, but liberal believers versus conservative believers. Alito’s Catholicism will, no doubt, be relevant in his decisions, in an indirect and constitutionally permissible way. The same is true of Justice Kennedy’s Catholicism, though I think it appears more in cases involving poor people. The same could be said for Justice Ginsburg’s very mild Judaism, and Justice O’Connor’s more robust Episcopalianism, to take just a couple of examples.

The center is well served when old divisions are overcome.


Anonymous said...

Real news is a Catholic Majority among most 95% all western world country leaders. All South & Central American and M/C and the USA is next. Catholic Majority on the Court and most states courts.
Get ready, no more evanglicals, it took along time. :-)

Gruntled said...

That is fascinating. Do you have a citation on that? This comes at a time when evangelical Protestantism is rising throughout Latin America. Guatemala is predicted to have a Protestant majority within a generation, with other formerly solidly Catholic nations to follow.

Anonymous said...

I think that the book you site is correct. The divide now in religion is between conservative and liberal. There are definite differences theologically, but the fact is that on many of the most continous social issues (i.e. abortion and homosexual marriage) the conservative Protestant and Catholic have a lot in common. It will be interesting to see how this swing toward Catholicism on the right might effect issues like poverty and the role of the military.

Gruntled said...

The great unknown, I think, with a Catholic majority is whether the Court's position on property issues will change. The President's "ownership society" talk is like Catholic Social Teaching about property, though I don't think Social Security privatization is an effective way to get there.