A Protestant-less Supreme Court?

There has been much said in recent years about the number of Roman Catholics serving on the U.S. Supreme Court (even if Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Sotomayor are different kinds of Catholics).

Stevens Turns 90But I didn’t fully realize that retiring Justice Stevens is the last Protestant on the high court.

Geoffrey Stone, law prof at the University of Chicago, raises the question — rhetorically, really — of whether Obama should name another Protestant.

So that there’s, you know, one.

Writing on the liberal Huffington Post, Stone, not surprisingly, concludes that affirmative action for Protestants is not necessary:

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Since the founding, there have been 112 justices of the Supreme Court. Of these, 94% have been Christian, 83% have been Protestant, 11% have been Catholic, and 6% have been Jewish.

The U.S. population today is roughly 78% Christian, 51% Protestant, 24% Catholic, 16% non-religious, 2% Mormon, 2% Jewish, and 2% Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu combined.

This means that, relative to the current population, Christians, Protestants and Jews have been substantially overrepresented on the Court historically, whereas Catholics, Mormons, Muslims, Buddhist, Hindus, and especially non-religious people have been substantially underrepresented on the Court.

To bring total Christian representation on the Supreme Court down to the percentage of Christians in the current population, none of the next 22 justices should be Christian.To bring total Protestant representation on the Supreme Court down to the percentage of Protestants in the current population, none of the next 69 justices should be Protestant.

To bring total Jewish representation on the Supreme Court down to the percentage of Jews in the current population, none of the next 139 justices should be Jewish.

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In the end, Stone offers that Supreme Court nominations should be based on competence and a legal vision “consonant” with the president’s own.

Diversity should be a secondary consideration, he writes.

Gary Stern

Gary Stern covered education in the Lower Hudson Valley for several years during the early 1990s. Now's he back on the beat. He believes that schools are one of the main reasons that people live around here and that educational issues -- from curriculum to financing -- are among the most challenging things that journalists can write about. He continues to be amazed by the complexity of educational jargon. Gary got his B.A. at SUNY Buffalo and his M.A. from the University of Missouri Journalism School (where his master's thesis was about the best ways to cover education). He lives in White Plains with his wife and two sons, who attend public schools.