Too Many Catholics on the Supreme Court?

Deal W. Hudson
April 11, 2010

With the upcoming retirement of Justice John Paul Stevens, the media have once again started counting the number of Catholics on the Supreme Court. A recent headline in the New York Times announced, “Stevens, the Only Protestant on the Supreme Court.”

Well, so what?

The Times article notes that Stevens’ retirement raises the possibility that the next Court might not include a single Protestant member – “something that would have been unimaginable a generation or two ago.” The present Court includes six Catholics, two Jews, and one Protestant (Stevens).

Even the New York Times will have to admit that Catholics have come a long way since the election of the first Catholic president in 1960. Much of the anti-Catholic prejudice of those days have passed, but obviously not all of it.

Why is it that the media start noting the religious affiliation on the Supreme Court now that Catholics predominate? Could this have anything to do with the media’s support for abortion on demand or gay marriage? Without a doubt, the mainstream media’s antipathy to Catholicism is directed at the Church’s moral authority.

The Times, however, doesn’t seem to realize that Protestantism is not a religion. Litvak makes the mistake of calling it “the nation’s majority religion.” Most people are familiar with Presbyterian churches; also Methodist, Baptist, Episcopal, Lutheran, and Church of Christ; but they’ve never seen a Protestant church or met anyone who belonged to the Protestant denomination. There’s no such thing, and anyone who uses “Protestant” as their religious affiliation is very likely not attending church.

You have to add all the adherents of all the Protestant denominations to make it the nation’s largest “religion.” In fact, Roman Catholics make up the single largest denomination – nearly 25 percent of the population, with Southern Baptists coming in second at 16.3 percent.

Litvak justifies counting Catholics with the observation that “society seems to demand that the court carry a certain demographic mix.” He notes the present concerns for the number of women, Hispanics, and African Americans on the Court, quoting Harvard law professor Mark Tushnet, who suggested, “The smartest political move would be to nominate an openly gay, Protestant guy.”

It’s typical of the postmodern attitude evinced by Tushnet that gender, sexual orientation, and ethnicity have to be considered when evaluating a person’s qualifications as an interpreter of the Constitution. From the postmodern perspective, a heterosexual man cannot represent the viewpoint of a lesbian woman regarding Constitutional matters, and so on.

The philosophical and theological traditions of Catholicism deny these postmodern presuppositions. Any one person is capable of looking at anyone else’s interests when it comes to interpreting the Constitution.

It’s unlikely there will be any media outcry if Obama nominates the leading candidate, Elena Kagan, who is Jewish. If the Court should reflect the proportion of adherents of the various religions, as Litvak suggests, then three Jewish justices vastly over-represent their 1 percent of the U.S. population. Does he object?

Litvak reports that Ruth Bader Ginsberg said, “Society is past worrying about a nominee’s religious affiliations.” That assertion is contradicted not only by the New York Times‘ pieces but by the plethora of articles throughout the media speculating on the religious affiliation of Stevens’s replacement.

By Deal Hudson

Deal W. Hudson was born November 20, 1949 in Denver, CO, to Emmie and Jack Hudson, both native Texans. Dr. Hudson had an older sister Ruth, and eventually, a younger sister, Elizabeth. Emmie Hudson, Ruth Hudson and Elizabeth Hudson now live in Houston, TX; Jack Hudson passed away some years ago. The late Jack Hudson was a captain for Braniff Airlines in Denver at the time of Dr. Hudson’s birth. Later the family moved to Kansas City when his father joined the Federal Aviation Agency. From Kansas City, the Hudson family moved to Minneapolis, then to Massapequa, NY, and finally to Alexandria, VA, where they first occupied a home overlooking the Potomac River adjacent to the Mount Vernon estate. After a year, the family moved to a home on Tarpon Lane a few houses up the street from the Yacht Haven boat docks. Dr. Hudson attended Mt. Vernon Elementary School from grades 4 to 6 and has a special gratitude for the teaching of Mr. Hoppe who first told him was a ‘smart lad.’ Having moved with his family to Fort Worth, TX in 1960, Dr. Hudson attended William Monnig Junior High and Arlington Heights HS. In high school, Dr. Hudson was captain of the golf team, editor of the literary magazine (Guerdon), and performed the role of Peter in the ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ during his senior year. Dr. Hudson graduated cum laude with a major in philosophy from the University of Texas-Austin in 1971 where his undergraduate advisor was Prof. John Silber. His teachers at the University of Texas included Prof. Louis Mackey and Prof. Larry Caroline. Dr. Hudson minored in both classics and English literature. Dr. Hudson lived in Atlanta from 1974-1989, where he attended Emory University, receiving a Phd from the Graduate Institute for the LIberal Arts. He also taught philosophy at Mercer University in Atlanta from 1980-89. In 1989 Dr. Hudson and his family left Atlanta when he was hired to teach philosophy at Fordham University in the Bronx. Dr. Hudson taught at Fordham, and also part-time at New York University, from 1989 to 1994. Dr. Hudson first came to Atlanta in after graduation from Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) with an M.Div. While at PTS, Dr. Hudson managed the Baptist Student Union at Princeton University and became its first director. Dr. Hudson also was licensed at a minister in the Southern Baptist Convention at Madison Baptist Church in Madison, NJ. Dr. Hudson’s primary area of study at PTS was the history of Christian doctrine which he pursued with Dr. Karlfried Froelich. In 1984 Dr. Hudson was received in the Catholic Church by Msgr. Richard Lopez, with the special permission of Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan, at the chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home in Atlanta. Dr. Hudson has been married twenty-five years to Theresa Carver Hudson and they have two children, Hannah Clare, 23, and Cyprian Joseph (Chip), 15, adopted from Romania when he was three years old. The Hudson family has lived in Fairfax, VA for more than fifteen years, after having lived five years in Bronxville, NY and a year in Atlanta, GA, where Theresa and Deal were married.

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