September 29, 2020
By Marci A. Hamilton
I simply cannot wrap my head around the fact that the United States Supreme Court may soon be composed of six Catholics (Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh, Sonia Sotomayor, Amy Barrett (if confirmed), one Justice who was raised Catholic but may now attend an Episcopal Church (Neil Gorsuch), and two Jews (Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer).
First, the newly configured Court will reflect less than a quarter of the country’s religious landscape, according to the Pew Research Center, if we include Gorsuch in the Catholic cohort. Catholics make up 20.8% of the American public, while Jews constitute 1.9%, which means as a group the Justices will reflect a mere 22.7% of the country’s faith experience. There are more Evangelical Protestants, 25.4%, and more religiously unaffiliated believers—22.8%—than Catholics and Jews together.
Alternatively, if Gorsuch is counted as a Mainline Protestant, the Court still reflects only 36.4% of the population of the United States. And 2/3 of the Court is one faith, which reflects only 20.8% of the population. To be sure, there was a time when white Protestant males were the sole religious believers on the Court. Yet, that religious hegemony was also unfortunate in light of the religious diversity of the country.
Second, has anyone in Washington noticed that the Catholic Church has been undergoing a scandal of extreme proportions over the last twenty years? To state it as a fact: the Church’s hierarchy is responsible for shielding and empowering child sex predators around the globe. As I have said many times before, I eagerly await one President or one member of the U.S. House or Senate with the guts to utter the phrase, “clergy sex abuse,” let alone hold a hearing or establish a Commission to study the issue. Leading child protection organizations have joined forces under the name “Keep Kids Safe,” and are asking both presidential candidates to embrace such a mission. (Full disclosure: my organization, CHILD USA, is a part of this movement).