6 Catholics, 3 Jews, 0 Protestants

We’ll probably hear a lot over the coming weeks about the U.S. Supreme Court becoming Protestant-less for the first time ever.

Solicitor General Elena Kagan, Obama’s nominee to replace John Paul Stevens, is Jewish. If she gets confirmed, the court will have six Catholic justices and three Jewish justices (although not all are religiously observant).

How important is it that the court won’t have a Protestant justice?

I guess it’s one of those “turning the page” moments, a solid reminder of the long, slow demise of mainline Protestant numbers and influence in this country.

Mainliners used to run the show, basically, dominating many American institutions. As we all know (at least those of us who follow this stuff), this hasn’t been the case for quite some time.

One might wonder if and when evangelical Christians — who make up at least a quarter of Americans — might replace mainliners on the top bench.

A CNN report notes:

*****

Evangelical Protestant colleges, meanwhile — including Regent University and Liberty University, founded by Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell respectively — have had law schools only since the 1980s.

And law schools with Protestant roots, like Harvard and Yale, shed their religious identities a long time ago, part of the broader fading of a distinct mainline Protestant identity in the U.S..

Some legal and religious scholars say the dearth of qualified evangelical candidates for the Supreme Court came into sharp relief in 2005, when President George W. Bush nominated White House counsel Harriet Miers to the high court.

An evangelical Christian whom the White House promoted strenuously among evangelicals, Miers had her nomination brought down largely by conservatives — nonevangelicals, mostly — who said she was not qualified for the position.

*****

I’m not sure if there have been “evangelical” justices in the past.

Several websites I found that compiled the religions of past justices list about a dozen who were believed to be only “Protestant.” Some of them could have been evangelicals, at least in terms of belief and practice.

It would surprise no one if Obama picked a mainline Protestant for the court. But you have to figure that it will be a Republic president who chooses the next evangelical justice.

And what about an atheist justice, an outright nonbeliever?

He or she would have to be chosen, one would think, by a Democratic president with really high poll numbers.

(AP Photo/Harvard University News Office, Stephanie Mitchell)

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:

*****

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.

*****

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.

Bridgeport diocese loses last round of legal battle over sex-abuse papers

It appears that the Diocese of Bridgeport’s long struggle to keep secret stacks of legal documents related to sex abuse is finally over.

And the diocese has lost.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused today to block the release of 12,000 pages of documents from 23 lawsuits against 6 priests.

The records have been sealed since the cases were settled in 2001, but the Connecticut courts have ruled that they should be released.

The Diocese says:

*****
We are disappointed that the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to extend the stay.

The content of the sealed documents soon to be released has already been extensively reported on.

For more than a decade, the Catholic Church in Bridgeport has addressed the issue of clergy sexual abuse compassionately and comprehensively.

For now, however, the serious threat to the First Amendment rights of all churches and the rightful privacy of all litigants remain in jeopardy because of the decision of the Connecticut Supreme Court. This, indeed, is regrettable.

*****

Dan Bartley, president of the lay reform group, Voice of the Faithful, says:

*****

Voice of the Faithful respectfully insists that Bishop Lori accept the Supreme Court decision and stop blocking the right of Catholics in Connecticut to know what happened. Bishop Lori must stop wasting untold hundreds of thousands of parishioners’ dollars to prevent these same parishioners, and the public, from finding out how Lori’s predecessors, including recently retired Cardinal Edward Egan, dealt with cases of sexual abuse of children.

U.S. Supreme Court rules against Bridgeport diocese

After years of legal wrangling, the Diocese of Bridgeport may soon have to release all those documents relating to sex-abuse lawsuits.

From the AP:

*****

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday against a Roman Catholic diocese in Connecticut, saying that thousands of documents generated by lawsuits against six priests for alleged sexual abuse cannot remain sealed.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg on Tuesday denied the Bridgeport diocese’s request to continue a stay on the release of the papers until the full court decides whether to review the case.

Ralph Johnson III, a lawyer for the diocese, said church officials were considering whether to ask all nine justices to rule on the request.

Jonathan Albano, attorney for three newspapers who requested the documents, said the ruling compels the diocese to release the documents, but he acknowledged the church could ask the full court to reconsider Ginsberg’s decision.

“At the end of the day, the diocese will be able to say they were heard before every court that was available to them,” Albano said.

Albano represents The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and The Washington Post. The three papers along with the Hartford Courant have asked to see the documents.

A Waterbury Superior Court said in 2006 that the documents were subject to a presumption of public access. And the Connecticut Supreme Court upheld the lower court decision, ruling that more than 12,000 pages from 23 lawsuits against the six priests should be unsealed.

The Connecticut high court also rejected the claim by church officials that the documents were subject to constitutional privileges, including religious privileges under the First Amendment.

The records have been under seal since the diocese settled the cases in 2001. They could provide details on how retired New York Cardinal Edward Egan handled the allegations when he was bishop in Bridgeport from 1988 to 2000.

The documents include depositions, affidavits and motions.

Bridgeport Diocese still fighting to keep court records closed

No surprise here: The Diocese of Bridgeport will try to go to the top, the U.S. Supreme Court, to prevent the release of court documents related to sex abuse.

The diocese explains its rationale on its website. The diocese asserts:

“From the very beginning of these court cases, the Diocese asserted that it was a violation of the religion clauses of the First Amendment for the courts to second-guess a Church’s selection and evaluation of ministers. The United States Supreme Court has expressly ruled that this is outside the proper role of civil authorities.”

David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, says this:

“No one wins here except a handful of self serving, secretive top Catholic officials whose complicity in child sex crimes remains hidden even longer. This is more evidence that there has been virtually no reform in the church hierarchy despite repeated pledges of openness about pedophile priests.

For any victim, witness or whistleblower who has kept quiet, hoping bishops have reformed, this is the reason and now is the time to speak up, protect others, and call police.”

Here’s the AP story in full:

JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN

Associated Press Writer

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — A Roman Catholic diocese in Connecticut sought Friday to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to keep under wraps sex abuse documents that could shed light on how a prominent retired cardinal handled the allegations.

Bridgeport Diocese officials asked the state Supreme Court to continue a stay on releasing the documents while it appeals to the nation’s highest court.

The state court has ruled that more than 12,000 pages of documents from more than 20 lawsuits against priests should be released. Those documents have been sealed from public view since the diocese settled the cases in 2001.

The records could reveal details on how retired New York Cardinal Edward Egan handled the allegations when he was Bridgeport bishop from 1988 to 2000. Egan’s deposition should be in the file, according to an attorney for the newspapers seeking the documents.

In Boston, Cardinal Bernard Law resigned after church records were released detailing his role in handling sexual abuse claims.

The Brideport Diocese faced a Monday deadline to appeal before the records were disclosed.

“The diocese believes there are important constitutional issues,” said Ralph Johnson III, attorney for the church. “These are issues important to all citizens.”

Johnson acknowledged that the nation’s highest court takes up only a small percentage of cases it is asked to review.

The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post and The Hartford Courant have been seeking the documents. Jonathan Albano, attorney for some of the papers, said that he would object to continuing the stay and that the case really involves state law that has been resolved.

“It’s somewhat disappointing that the diocese continues to approach the litigation in a way that delays the public’s right to see these documents,” Albano said. “There’s been seven years of litigation.”

An advocacy group for victims of church sexual abuse condemned the latest appeal.

“We’re disappointed that the complicity of top Catholic officials continues to remain hidden,” said David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. “This is not what Connecticut Catholics or citizens deserve. It’s one more painful reminder that bishops will do everything possible to protect themselves and their colleagues instead of children.”

Church officials said that the media have reported on the cases extensively and that attorneys and victims had access to the sealed documents. Court officials declined to comment.

A Waterbury Superior Court judge ruled in 2006 that the files should be unsealed, but the diocese appealed. The high court agreed with the trial court that the documents, which include depositions, affidavits and motions, were subject to a presumption of public access.

Church officials say the ruling fails to uphold the privacy and constitutional rights of all parties to lawsuits, especially when cases are sealed, and contends that disclosure of the sealed documents is barred by the religious clauses of the First Amendment.

The state Supreme Court rejected church officials’ claim that the documents were subject to constitutional privileges, including religious privileges under the First Amendment.