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Q: If Elena Kagan is confirmed to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens, the Supreme Court would for the first time in its history be without a justice belonging to America’s largest religious affiliations — the Protestant traditions. If Kagan is confirmed, six of the justices will be Roman Catholic and three will be Jewish. Should the Supreme Court be more representative of America’s religious traditions? Does religion matter in the mix of experience and expertise that a president seeks in a Supreme Court nominee?
With the confirmation of Elena Kagan as the newest Supreme Court Justice, the court will have no Protestants. It will also have no Muslims, Buddhists, or Atheists (at least no avowed ones). While diversity on the Supreme Court is clearly desirable, it would not be wise to demand representation for the largest religious groups in America — proportionally that would be three Protestant judges, two Catholics, a Jew, a Muslim, an atheist, and a diversity chair which would be rotated among the Hindus, Wiccans, Bahai’s, Scientologists, and other smaller religious factions. It would be a logistical nightmare.
More importantly, the law of our land is secular. It does not originate in religious authority. Its strictures do not derive from holy books. Rather it comes from the Constitution, federal law, and the acts of Congress. Justices are sworn to uphold the Constitution, not their personal religious beliefs. As such, their religious background should be secondary at best. And the only religious qualification that should be required is that the justices be prepared to set aside their personal convictions if the Constitution so demands.