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Justice John Paul Stevens announced in April his upcoming retirement from the U.S. Supreme Court, prompting waves of speculation on whether the departure of the Court's only Protestant—six remaining justices are Catholic and two are Jewish—will matter. Few Protestants have landed on the shortlist to replace him.

"There should be no religious test for a Supreme Court nomination, but religious diversity is valuable because it may help the Court to understand sympathetically the worldviews held by various groups of Americans."

"Who we are affects how we view things. In a small group like the Supreme Court, all of a person's identity features will affect how that small group of people makes decisions. But it's not clear if religion will be a principal motivating force in someone's time on the Court. Data from the lower court level suggests identity as a member of the religious right can affect decision-making on a fairly narrow subset of issues—capital punishment, gender discrimination, and obscenity. But the Supreme Court is small, and ideology and judicial philosophy play a very big role in guiding decision-making."

"No, it doesn't matter if he or she is a Protestant, but I'm a firm believer that the form-freedom balance we enjoy as Americans is uniquely the product of our Judeo-Christian heritage. Our freedoms are rooted in the notion that we are created in God's image."

"I don't think it will affect the work of the Court. Those issues concern conservative versus liberal jurisprudence. Protestant and Catholic conservatives share jurisprudential values; so do Protestant and Catholic liberals. It's more interesting for what it says about the roles of the different faiths now in these intellectual movements than ...

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A Protestant-Less Supreme Court: Does it Matter?
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In the Magazine

June 2010

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