No Protestants on the Bench

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Law & Liberty

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As it does every year, a new Supreme Court term has begun in Washington. This time, however, the Court’s composition is a bit unusual. At the moment, the Court has only eight members; a successor for the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who passed away in February, has not yet been appointed. But the Court’s composition is unusual for another reason, too: the religious backgrounds of the justices. None of the current members of the Court is a Protestant Christian. Neither is the man President Obama nominated for the Scalia seat, Circuit Judge Merrick Garland—a nomination that will now be set aside as Donald Trump prepares to be sworn in on January 20, 2017.

It is notable, in any case, that a Protestant has not sat on the High Court since Justice John Paul Stevens resigned in 2010. In historical terms, the scarcity of Protestants is a striking anomaly. Before now, the Court has always contained at least some. In fact, Protestants have made up the large majority of the 112 men and women who have served as justices. So the current situation should make us stop and think. How did it come to be that Protestants aren’t represented at all, and does it make a difference for the law?