supreme court

The U.S. Supreme Court, 23 June 2003/Brendan McDermid

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Elizabeth E. Evans is a U.S. freelance journalist living in Glenmoore, PA who writes about religion.

By Elizabeth E. Evans

It is hard to evaluate the significance of history while it is being written.  But in considering whether it matters that there possibly will be no Protestant on the Supreme Court when it convenes next fall, one thing is clear – it’s a fascinating time to be a student of Christian practice in America.

Does the lack of Protestants of any stripe on the Court truly matter to anyone save those who might feel upset that their denomination is left out?  Arguably not.  In a time of increasing ethnic and religious pluralism, and with tectonic changes going on within Protestantism and Catholicism in the United States, it is possible that the old categories simply don’t work anymore.

Writing for the Huffington Post last month, Chicago University law professor Geoffrey Stone brought a bracing realism to the question of religious identity and the Court.  He pointed out that of the 112 Supreme Court justices who have served since it was founded, 83% percent have been Protestant, 11% percent Catholic, and 6% percent Jewish. However, he continues: “the U.S. population today is roughly 78% Christian, 51% Protestant, 24% Catholic, 16% non-religious, 2% Mormon, 2% Jewish, and 2% Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu combined.”

To achieve a truly representative Court, according to these standards, “the next 69 justices should consist of 32 Catholics, 29 non-religious individuals, four Mormons, a total of four Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus, and no Protestants or Jews,” wrote Stone.  Considered in that light, it would be almost impossible for any president to make the “right” choice.