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Justice John Paul Stevens, described in media reports as the last remaining Protestant on the Supreme Court, announced Friday that he would retire.

In 2006, the court began to have a Catholic majority. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito tend to fall on the conservative side of the court compared to fellow Catholic Justices Sonya Sotomayor and Anthony Kennedy. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer are Jewish.

"If religion is a factor, it's not going to be in the top five by any means," said Carl Esbeck, a law professor at the University of Missouri. "That said, one's religious faith or absence thereof says a lot about your worldview, which affects your work. You want a variety of worldviews on the court."

Non-evangelicals have done much of the heavy hitting for evangelicals in the law, said Notre Dame history professor Mark Noll. "Witness intense evangelical support for the George W. Bush Catholic nominees to the Supreme Court," Noll said.

Institutions historically founded by Protestants have well-regarded law schools, such as Northwestern, Duke, Vanderbilt, and Emory.

"But how much Protestantism is left in those law schools? Catholics have law schools ranked in the top 30: Boston College, Georgetown, and Notre Dame, where something distinctively Catholic remains in each one," Noll said. "Clearly, the day when the higher levels of American public life were reflexively Protestant, near-Protestant, or humanistic with a Protestant tinge are past."

Christian groups often voice concern on how the high court could rule on cases related to abortion or religious freedom.

"For those who care about religious freedom, you want a fair number of justices to understand religion," ...

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April 2010

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