Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The last Protestant leaves the bench

File this under:  the things you learn!  Diana Butler Bass, a well-known writer on American religious life with a decidedly progressive, mainline Protestant point of view, has observed that, with Justice Stevens' departure and assuming Elena Kagan's ultimate Senate confirmation to replace him, there will no longer be any Protestant justices at the Supreme Court.  The new "religion scorecard" will read:  Roman Catholics 6, Jews 3.

On the one hand, none of this should matter.  But, on the other hand, this is a pretty stunning development; and, as Bass points out, has very real implications for (especially, but not limited to) the myriad church-state cases that keep working their way up to the High Court.  The presence (or absence) of religious tradition fundamentally informs basic attitudes about how and to what extent religion is allowed to enter the public square.  Witness Justice Scalia.  Of course, no one can accurately forecast how switching out Stevens' Protestant background with Kagan's Jewish background will affect the ideological balance of the court, but it cannot help but have some sort of effect.

This is not necessarily a bad thing at all...but it is interesting!