A little-known fact regarding the U.S. Supreme Court justices entails their religious stance—a majority are of the Catholic faith. This results in a more conservative group of individuals ruling on issues concerning education, gay rights and abortion. In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., privately held, for-profit corporations were given the upperhand in being able to cite their religious standpoint to deny their employees access to contraceptive coverage through their job’s health insurance. The decision was 5 to 4.
It does not always mean, though, that the justices do not rule in favor of a more liberal stance.
According to a Supreme Court review done by John T. Noonan Jr. he states, “[G]enerally, in the course of 170 years of Catholics on the Supreme Court, it does not appear that the identification of a Justice as a Catholic carries with it predictive value as to his vote.”
The Constitution itself pledges that a religious test will never be a qualification for those wishing to hold office in America. There has always been a cry for separation of church and state in this land.
Currently, the Catholic makeup of our Supreme Court consists of Chief Justice John Roberts along with Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas. Donald Trump appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch who was raised Catholic but who regularly attends an Episcopal church. He proves to be a toss-up, religion-wise. Anthony Kennedy who stepped down from his position this past July was also a Catholic and his replacement, Brett Kavanaugh, is an even more devout Catholic. Kavanaugh, initially a law clerk to his predecessor, has openly stated that he is Catholic during his nomination. Catholic judges are mostly appointed by Republican Presidents, as is the case with Trump and Kavanaugh.
Their positions are ones that can span a lifetime. Depending on whether or not they lean more left or right can have the potential to mean good or bad when they make decisions for the country. Not only does a Catholic-held majority affect their rulings on key issues, but it proves that the American government lacks religious diversity. There has never been a Muslim, Hindu or even a nonbeliever holding a seat in the highest Court in America. A study completed by Pew found that 20.8% of the U.S. population in 2014 was Catholic—a nearly 3 percent decline from seven years ago. Compared to the numbers representing the Hindu and Muslim faith in this country—which were each found to be less than 1 percent—it can be deduced that Catholics in the Supreme Court represent one-fifth of the American population.
The law is the law and as Supreme Court justices of the United States, they have an obligation to uphold the law of the land through their interpretation of the Constitution. However, their interpretation may not always be the interpretation needed by the people.
No entity is free from subjectivity—not even in the workplace—so an association of the Catholic faith held by the majority of the U.S. Supreme Court with their key rulings becomes problematic.
Dana Mathura is a senior at Baruch College majoring in Communication Studies and minoring in Journalism, class of Spring 2019. Dana has written for the online publication Odyssey and is currently a News and Feature Writer for Caribbean American Weekly, as well as Workers World Today. Her work has been published both in print and online. Fascinated with journalism from a young age, she is an aspiring Broadcast News Analyst, hoping one day to write her own memoir. Dana’s interests include fashion, photography and film.