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Has the Supreme Court Become Too Catholic
December 10, 2009 5:23 PM   Subscribe

Has the Supreme Court become too Catholic?
posted by jefficator (123 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Yes?
posted by Balisong at 5:27 PM on December 10, 2009


Yes.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 5:28 PM on December 10, 2009


Has the College of Cardinals become too woodsy?
posted by Sys Rq at 5:29 PM on December 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yyyyeeessss.
posted by crickets at 5:29 PM on December 10, 2009


I know its bad form to comment on your own post, but I thought I would say this in light of statements about representation on the court: the most politically underrepresented "group" in American are atheists/agnostics.
posted by jefficator at 5:29 PM on December 10, 2009 [15 favorites]


SPOILER ALERT: Yes, it has.
posted by EatTheWeak at 5:30 PM on December 10, 2009


This is the wrong question, IMHO. The right question is, "Is Catholicism unduly influencing the decisions of SCOTUS?" The snarky answer is probably "Yes" in the way that the Beatles unduly influence later musicians.
posted by axiom at 5:32 PM on December 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


TOMORROW ON SLATE: HOW MANY KICKS TO YOUR GROIN IS TOO MANY.OUR INVESTIGATORS SAY SEVEN.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 5:35 PM on December 10, 2009 [29 favorites]


the most politically underrepresented "group" in American are atheists/agnostics.

Definitely very underrepresented. But the "most" underrepresented? I doubt it.
posted by The World Famous at 5:36 PM on December 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Wow, I hadn't even thought about the religions of any of the justices.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 5:37 PM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


But the "most" underrepresented? I doubt it.

Yeah, how about Jains? Or the Amish? Are Jehovah's Witnesses allowed to hold office, or even vote, according to their faith?
posted by mr_roboto at 5:42 PM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


TOMORROW ON SLATE: HOW MANY KICKS TO YOUR GROIN IS TOO MANY.OUR INVESTIGATORS SAY SEVEN.

THREE YEARS LATER ON SLATE: FIVE KICKS TO YOUR GROIN MAKES YOU A BETTER PARENT.
posted by The Devil Tesla at 5:43 PM on December 10, 2009 [11 favorites]


I know its bad form to comment on your own post, but I thought I would say this in light of statements about representation on the court: the most politically underrepresented "group" in American are atheists/agnostics.

We're also the smallest of groups when it comes to religious/irreligious identity, aren't we?
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:44 PM on December 10, 2009


Yeah, how about Jains? Or the Amish? Are Jehovah's Witnesses allowed to hold office, or even vote, according to their faith?

Maybe not Jains, but Amish and JWs could easily make the same generic, blanket, pro-GodMerica statements that existing politicians do. But heaven help (heh) the politician who dares to say the Invisible Sky Giant is wearing no clothes.
posted by DU at 5:45 PM on December 10, 2009


What's the historical level of catholicism in the court? It may not have become too catholic. But it probably is.

I found it interesting that O'Connor's statement about geographic diversity being important "surprised people". Up here in Canada, it's a convention (not a law or anything, but it's still followed) that the judges are: 3 from Quebec, 3 from Ontario, 2 from the West (1 B.C. 1 Prairie, I think), and 1 from out East. With the emphasis on State's rights down your way, why wouldn't that type of doctrine also evolve?
posted by Lemurrhea at 5:48 PM on December 10, 2009


Yeah, there aren't any Jains in Congress, but I bet there aren't more than a couple million of 'em in the whole country. How many atheists/agnostics are there?
posted by box at 5:49 PM on December 10, 2009


There's a whole of difference between Catholic and "Catholic".
I know scores of people who, if asked, would say they're Catholic, but also quite happily vote for Planned Parenthood budgets, pro-abortion politicians, gays in the military and a bunch of other stuff that would get the Pope's dress in a twist.

"Today religion is almost irrelevant in appointing new justices."

As it should be. Along with sex, race, and anything else other than your legal record.
posted by madajb at 5:49 PM on December 10, 2009 [5 favorites]


Maybe not Jains, but Amish and JWs could easily make the same generic, blanket, pro-GodMerica statements that existing politicians do.

Eh, the JWs aren't very big on the whole "America" thing. Their allegiances are pretty strictly spiritual.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:50 PM on December 10, 2009


Has the Presidency become too Protestant?
posted by Navelgazer at 5:56 PM on December 10, 2009 [8 favorites]


But heaven help (heh) the politician who dares to say the Invisible Sky Giant is wearing no clothes.

A good politician probably wouldn't come right out and say something so dismissive about other people's personal beliefs, which they presumably have for some good reason.
posted by hermitosis at 5:58 PM on December 10, 2009


I'm from that Catholic stronghold of America, Northeast Ohio, where it is the default religion. When you get down to the level of people who consider themselves Catholics, they aren't this monolithic entity, spewing out whatever policy thoughts the Bishops came up with. A lot of it comes down to being a tradition you identify with, not this all consuming way of life. I don't know what the polling indicates, but in my experience most Catholics form their political predilections independent from the church.

So, if all six of these Justices have a direct line to the Vatican and are meeting with a Cardinal consistently, I'd be concerned. However I'm not sure it is a reliable policy indicator otherwise.
posted by nowoutside at 6:00 PM on December 10, 2009 [7 favorites]


Since Congress is mostly Protestant, and the Presidency almost exclusively so, belief in the balance of powers suggest that the Supreme Court should be comprised entirely of the Cult of Cthulhu.

It's only fair.
posted by oddman at 6:01 PM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Amish and JWs could easily make the same generic, blanket, pro-GodMerica statements that existing politicians do

I'm not so sure the Amish could or would make those statements.
posted by kanewai at 6:03 PM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


To the best of my knowledge, this is still a majority Protestant country. While I am not Protestant, I think that they should have major representation, if not proportional representation on the Supreme Court. However, the new born-again type of Evangelical Christians scare the hell out of me; why can't we get less scary "normal" Protestants elected to the court when openings occur: Lutherans, Episcopalians, etc.?
posted by mdrosen at 6:04 PM on December 10, 2009


The problem is that Catholicism is too Catholic.
posted by tkchrist at 6:06 PM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


which they presumably have for some good reason

Oh. They have reasons. But not sure I'd call them good reasons. I mean one doesn't have to look too hard to find much better and more compelling reasons for not holding such beliefs.
posted by tkchrist at 6:08 PM on December 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yes, let's argue about atheism rather than discussing the impact of religious affiliation on the Supreme Court.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:10 PM on December 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


However, the new born-again type of Evangelical Christians scare the hell out of me; why can't we get less scary "normal" Protestants elected to the court when openings occur: Lutherans, Episcopalians, etc.?

Ah Overton Window--is there no craziness you can't make seem moderate?
posted by DU at 6:10 PM on December 10, 2009 [5 favorites]


I wish I could look at the Metafilter archives from the 1960 presidential election when everyone would have been aghast at the thought that people wouldn't vote for Kennedy because he was a Catholic.
posted by vorpal bunny at 6:10 PM on December 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


A perhaps more pertinent question might be whether Catholics and Jews are (1) more likely to go to the most elite law schools, ans (2) better represented among those classes in going into Judgeships as a career. I don't know the social factors involved in this, but in my experience this seems to be the case.

It also seems to be the case that it doesn't really effect rulings.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:14 PM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yes, let's argue about atheism rather than discussing the impact of religious affiliation on the Supreme Court.

What if, huh. What if the Supreme Court had openly acknowledged Atheists.

Never happen. And that tells all you need to know about the supposed tolerance people really have for divergent beliefs.
posted by tkchrist at 6:17 PM on December 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


Oliver Wendell Holmes was an openly acknowledged, outspoken atheist. Also probably the greatest justice the court has ever known.

Not to say whether or not it could happen today. Just a data point.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:19 PM on December 10, 2009


It also seems to be the case that it doesn't really effect rulings.

What?
posted by tkchrist at 6:19 PM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oliver Wendell Holmes was an openly acknowledged, outspoken atheist.

I never knew that. But it's won't happen today. And not for decades. Not with the politicized evangelical movement so prominent. Man. That is depressing that we have actually regressed in so short a time.
posted by tkchrist at 6:21 PM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


"the most unrepresented minority, the largest group of our fellow citizens never to have had one of its own sit on the U.S. Supreme Court in the modern era is—Evangelical Christians."

Thank FSM.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 6:24 PM on December 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


It also seems to be the case that it doesn't really effect rulings.

What?


In spite of having the Pope as a singular religious leader, Catholics in America are far from monolithic, and disagree about a great many things. Also, they tend to represent a hugely disproportionate amount of judgeships at all levels, to the point where I'd posit that it isn't intentional so much as a intra-cultural push for those catholic kids going into the legal profession to become judges - something most lawyers know too well is a job they'd never want to do.

Again, I don't know all the factors. I know that a goof number of the top law schools are Jesuit institutions. But in any case, Catholics sit across the aisle from each other on almost any legal issue you can consider, including things such as reproductive rights and marriage equality. So know, I don't think it effects the rulings, I just think it's a not-all-that-surprising statistical curiosity.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:27 PM on December 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


If I had a choice between "Catholic" and "Evangelical", I think I'd take Catholic.
posted by empath at 6:29 PM on December 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


tkchrist, quoting from the article.


"Still, those who have attempted to argue that one's religion does inform a justice's constitutional thinking have encountered some rough sledding. How to answer, for instance, Scalia's argument that William Brennan—also a Catholic—was one of the staunchest defenders of reproductive rights?"

In fact the slate article links to another article in which the author also concludes that the evidence does not suggest a simple relationship between religion and voting patterns.
posted by oddman at 6:29 PM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


There's a whole of difference between Catholic and "Catholic".

Exactly, I don't have a problem with Catholics in general being on the supreme court. I do have a problem with Scalia being on the supreme court in part because he adheres to a specific conservative Catholicism that has dangerous political goals.
posted by afu at 6:33 PM on December 10, 2009


The Supreme Court is obviously too American, and therefore biased.
posted by blue_beetle at 6:47 PM on December 10, 2009


I'm uncomfortable with a lot of this thread. I'm pretty sure questions like "Has XXX become too Asian?" or "Has XXX become too Jewish?" would be met with rather harsh response. It's not as if Catholics in the USA haven't been a historically discriminated against group.
posted by Justinian at 6:50 PM on December 10, 2009 [15 favorites]




If I had a choice between "Catholic" and "Evangelical", I think I'd take Catholic.


At least the architecture will be more attractive.
posted by thivaia at 6:53 PM on December 10, 2009 [7 favorites]


Oliver Wendell Holmes was ... probably the greatest justice the court has ever known.

Ah yes, Oliver Wendell Holmes, liberal icon of the court, famous for such progressive pronouncements as "It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind.... Three generations of imbeciles are enough." Buck v. Bell, 274 U.S. 200, 207 (1927).

Is the Court too Catholic? Absolutely not. For one thing, as the article points out, religion doesn't seem to determine case outcome. Scalia famously not only doesn't apply Catholic doctrine to death penalty cases, but openly disagrees with that doctrine.

Conjointly, the correlation on the Court between current Catholics and current conservatives cannot be carried out to contemporary Catholics country-wide. Catholics conclusively cast their ballots for our current Commander-in-Chief.
posted by jock@law at 6:54 PM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Navelgazer> It also seems to be the case that it doesn't really effect rulings.

tkchrist> What?

I know: I can't believe he misspelled "affect", either.
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 6:55 PM on December 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Has religion invaded too much of the American government?
yes.

The choice shouldn't be Catholic vs. Fundamentalist. It should be No Religious State vs. Absolutely No Religious State
posted by theora55 at 7:01 PM on December 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


I know: I can't believe he misspelled "affect", either.

God-dammit!
posted by Navelgazer at 7:06 PM on December 10, 2009


I do have a problem with Scalia being on the supreme court in part because he adheres to a specific conservative Catholicism that has dangerous political goals.

I think you don't know very much about Scalia's views on judging.

Scalia has been pretty outspoken about the idea that his Catholic ideals about the right ordering of society do not influence his legal decisions. He holds, I understand, as many conservative (in both political and religious senses) Catholics do that it is his duty to uphold and execute the law as it is written by the legislature and in the Constitution. He has a higher duty to uphold divine law, but if these two ever conflict, the problem cannot be resolved by ruling in accordance with the divine law and against the Constitution/statues, but rather that he'd be obliged to resign his office. This is not a universally accepted view and he's taken some guff from the right for his anti-activist/originalist stance.
posted by Jahaza at 7:10 PM on December 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Muslim?
posted by Postroad at 7:14 PM on December 10, 2009


Today religion is almost irrelevant in appointing new justices.

Ha.
Hahahahahahaha
Hahahahrrahhhahahhaha
LOL
LOL

posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 7:31 PM on December 10, 2009


SLOP
posted by edgeways at 7:38 PM on December 10, 2009


Today religion is almost irrelevant in appointing new justices.

Ha.
Hahahahahahaha
Hahahahrrahhhahahhaha
LOL
LOL


Hey, now, c'mon, it's true. Nowadays justices are chosen based on much more relevant criteria, like race and gender.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:40 PM on December 10, 2009


SLOP

Hey c'mon. Like you could have called that bank shot.
posted by jock@law at 7:41 PM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Bloody Papists. I got nuthin'
posted by MikeMc at 7:45 PM on December 10, 2009


I'm uncomfortable with a lot of this thread. I'm pretty sure questions like "Has XXX become too Asian?"

Man, there's at least a hundred porn jokes in there. Not gonna touch any of them with a digitally-mosaiced pole. Shit.
posted by kid ichorous at 7:47 PM on December 10, 2009 [5 favorites]


Ah yes, Oliver Wendell Holmes, liberal icon of the court, famous for such progressive pronouncements as "It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind.... Three generations of imbeciles are enough." Buck v. Bell, 274 U.S. 200, 207 (1927).

Three generations of imbeciles is barely enough to win some states.
posted by Brian B. at 7:48 PM on December 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think you don't know very much about Scalia's views on judging.

Scalia has been pretty outspoken about the idea that his Catholic ideals about the right ordering of society do not influence his legal decisions. He holds, I understand, as many conservative (in both political and religious senses) Catholics do that it is his duty to uphold and execute the law as it is written by the legislature and in the Constitution. He has a higher duty to uphold divine law, but if these two ever conflict, the problem cannot be resolved by ruling in accordance with the divine law and against the Constitution/statues, but rather that he'd be obliged to resign his office. This is not a universally accepted view and he's taken some guff from the right for his anti-activist/originalist stance.


Jahaza, those are pretty admirable words from Justice Scalia. On the other hand, his actions seem pretty clearly in line with Catholic teachings.

Hmm, pretty words vs. actual actions. Tough call.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:50 PM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


He votes in-line with some Catholic teaching and against other Catholic teaching.

Yeah, open and shut case right there.

ITMFA (Impeach the . . . already)
posted by oddman at 8:02 PM on December 10, 2009


Three generations of imbeciles are enough.

Prescott counts, right? Please?
posted by Sys Rq at 8:04 PM on December 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


[Scalia's rulings] seem pretty clearly in line with Catholic teachings.

Only in a meta-sense, in that there's a strong argument to be made that the Catholic doctrine of subsidiarity - which holds that governmental decisions should be made by the most-local competent authority - prohibits the Vatican from micromanaging individual countries' or judges' decisions.

His opinions, however, only intermittently take a position that, if they were the law and when they are the law, would cause and do cause a legal result that codifies Catholic doctrine. If you think there's a pattern to suggest a meaningful correlation, I invite you to supply sources supporting your stated proposition.
posted by jock@law at 8:06 PM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


No, if the Supreme Court were too Catholic, there would only be three justices. Or one. Or maybe one, three, and nine, all at the same time.
posted by erniepan at 8:07 PM on December 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'll admit to being weirded out when I realized that here in Northern Virginia, Justice Scalia's son is one of the priests at Justice Kennedy's parish. I mean, I know that's just the reality of the inside-the-beltway culture that things like that will happen...

...but then I think about the scandals involving pro-choice politicians being barred from communion and squick more than a little about the church's forays into using religious doctrine as a political tool.
posted by Riki tiki at 8:15 PM on December 10, 2009


Muslim?

Seeeeeeeeeecrit Muslim = 1
posted by briank at 8:27 PM on December 10, 2009


Scalia is considered the Court's leading proponent of "originalism." This is a legal philosophy whereby the proponent attempts to locate the most dickish elements of the founding fathers' political views, magnify them, and disingenuously use them as a pretext for perpetuating dickish views. In other words, the phrase "I am an originalist," is synonymous with "I am a racist, but I'm too much of a pussy to just come out and say it because I went to college." It's the legal philsophy the audience on Jerry Springer would have if they went to Harvard or Yale law schools.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:28 PM on December 10, 2009 [14 favorites]


Aww. That's really a shitty addition to Wikipedia but I will be sorry to see it go.
posted by Riki tiki at 8:29 PM on December 10, 2009


Oh. Nevermind.
posted by Riki tiki at 8:29 PM on December 10, 2009


Seeeeeeeeeecrit Muslim = 1

Don't you mean seekrit muslin?
posted by MikeMc at 8:33 PM on December 10, 2009


Just like human dicks, oil spent much of its early life not being a dick. It was simply content being a layer of sediment that was agreeable and pleasant to spend time with. All of that changed 100 million years later.

Oh internet, how could you keep this away from me.
posted by kid ichorous at 8:45 PM on December 10, 2009


Sys Rq: Nowadays justices are chosen based on much more relevant criteria, like race and gender.

ow jeez you got metal shavings in my eye watch it
posted by Baby_Balrog at 8:51 PM on December 10, 2009


There was a similar sort of article in the English newspaper The Independent which pointed out that two members of a panel were Jewish and that "Both Gilbert and Freedman are Jewish [...] it is a pity that, if and when the inquiry is accused of a whitewash, such handy ammunition will be available. Membership should not only be balanced; it should be seen to be balanced." That is, Jews (or Catholics) have their own agenda and we don't trust them.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:17 PM on December 10, 2009


People who disagree with me: Are there too many of them?

“So, if all six of these Justices have a direct line to the Vatican and are meeting with a Cardinal consistently, I'd be concerned. However I'm not sure it is a reliable policy indicator otherwise.”

C’mon, all Catholics have direct lines to the Vatican. They have that secret Cat-phone in their medicine cabinets. Seriously, go look.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:22 PM on December 10, 2009


I think it's rich -- but typical of him -- that Scalia defends himself from the charge that he judges as a Catholic by pointing out his stance on the death penalty. Like the stereotypical position of an American Catholic is something other than a slavish devotion to papal decree on abortion, but lip service if not outright rejection of the particular tenets regarding war and the death penalty.

He's a great -- and often hilarious -- writer, but I've yet to see any evidence that his "originalism" is founded in anything more than the happy coincidence that his political sentiments closely match the political state of the art of the late 18th century. Thomas, for all his reprehensible personal flaws, is actually a much more principled jurist (Gonzales v Raich being the obvious example).
posted by bjrubble at 9:30 PM on December 10, 2009


Thomas? Clarence "napping during arguments" Thomas?
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:39 PM on December 10, 2009


Weird. I've never met a judge whose religion affected any case I have been a part of.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:54 PM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've yet to see any evidence that his "originalism" is founded in anything more than the happy coincidence that his political sentiments closely match the political state of the art of the late 18th century.

Seriously, you can't take him seriously. A lawyer whose basis for decision is a belief that somehow he can "channel" the founding fathers.

His book on persuading judges is pretty fucking good, but I suspect it has a lot more to do with his co-author.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:57 PM on December 10, 2009


My guess is that most of the "yes, duh" responses are coming from people who think the court is too conservative, not too Catholic. Do any of you hold Sotomayor's Catholicism against her?
posted by Bizurke at 10:15 PM on December 10, 2009


Give us time and we just might, Bizurke. She's only been a Justice since August and I'm not aware of any decisions since then that might be significantly informed by Catholic doctrine. Correct me if I'm wrong.
posted by Riki tiki at 10:25 PM on December 10, 2009


"[Roberts] married Jane Sullivan in Washington in 1996.[3] She is an attorney, a Catholic, and a trustee (along with Clarence Thomas) at her alma mater, the College of the Holy Cross"
posted by chymes at 10:39 PM on December 10, 2009


I believe that this is totally a non-issue and agree in pointing out that there is a huge difference between what most day to day Catholics believe and what the rather strange stereotype for Catholics suggests they believe.

Full disclosure, I check off Catholic on my Census forms... which I fill out in Canada. But the last time I actually attended Mass was ... well I'm not sure.

Catholic's make up close to half the population up here and the last time I checked this didn't keep us from legalizing Gay Marriage and Abortion and both standing up to constitutional challenges. Though I'll grant that we haven't had the death penalty since '76 and before that haven't executed anyone since '62.

Off hand I couldn't tell you the religion of any of the members of the Supreme court of Canada, and I could only name a couple of them. Even with a little bit of research all I can say with any confidence that one of them is probably Jewish.
posted by cirhosis at 10:44 PM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Scalia famously rejects church teaching on the death penalty:
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on Monday criticized his church's position against the death penalty, saying that Catholic judges who believe capital punishment is wrong should resign ... In Chicago on Jan. 25, Scalia said, "In my view, the choice for the judge who believes the death penalty to be immoral is resignation rather than simply ignoring duly enacted constitutional laws and sabotaging the death penalty." His remarks were transcribed by the event sponsor, the Pew Forum ... Scalia said Monday that "any Catholic jurist (with such concerns) ... would have to resign."
To the extent that the Supreme Court remains willing to kill people, I would contend it is not Catholic enough.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 11:14 PM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wow. I would have thought that the Catholic Church would support the death penalty. I'm completely surprised. I wonder why they oppose it?
posted by Mister Moofoo at 11:58 PM on December 10, 2009


I mean, I know the reasons why people oppose the death penalty. I just wonder what the Church's reasons, in particular, are.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 12:00 AM on December 11, 2009


I think the Catholic position is that life is sacred - womb to tomb. Thus, no abortion, no death penalty. In any parish, divergence of opinion could probably be found among the laity.
posted by Cranberry at 12:10 AM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Combine that with the fact that the Catholic Church doesn't have the ability to murder people for disagreeing with the dogma anymore, and you end up with a variety of viewpoints.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:41 AM on December 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


...the ability to murder people for disagreeing with the dogma...
See, that right there, that's why I figured they'd be all about the death penalty, continued relevance or not.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 1:01 AM on December 11, 2009


I'm not a big fan of organized religion of any sort, but don't you think that's a little unfair? It's not the 14th century any more.
posted by Justinian at 1:14 AM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Has the woods become too full of bear shit?
posted by Smedleyman at 2:09 AM on December 11, 2009


jock@law: "
Conjointly, the correlation on the Court between current Catholics and current conservatives cannot be carried out to contemporary Catholics country-wide. Catholics conclusively cast their ballots for our current Commander-in-Chief.
"

I see what you did there...

(and yes, sometimes I read out loud.)
posted by notsnot at 5:07 AM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Holy shit, how did this phone end up in my medicine cabinet?
posted by sciurus at 6:02 AM on December 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


See, that right there, that's why I figured they'd be all about the death penalty, continued relevance or not.

Well, now you're that much less ignorant today.
posted by yerfatma at 6:31 AM on December 11, 2009


Is the pope catholic?
posted by solmyjuice at 8:24 AM on December 11, 2009


I would worry less about the six Catholics on the court, and more about the two members of Opus Dei.

I would say that two religious fascists on our highest court are two too many, and balance be damned.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 8:49 AM on December 11, 2009


Has the Supreme Court become too conservative?

(Yes.)
posted by klangklangston at 9:11 AM on December 11, 2009


Mister Moofoo: I mean, I know the reasons why people oppose the death penalty. I just wonder what the Church's reasons, in particular, are.

Cranberry summed it up fairly well. The Catholic Church has for some time argued that the death penalty can only be justified where a country's justice system isn't stable enough to protect public safety otherwise (e.g. if you arrest a serial killer and you don't have a stable prison system). Despite the fact that this is patently not the case throughout the US, Canada and Western Europe (and the respective bishops of these countries have said as much), Catholics like Scalia have used this exception to argue its in the special category of church teachings they can call wrong, while still insisting that other Catholics follow all the church teachings they support. It drives me bonkers, but there it is.

I've said this before on MeFi, but its worth pointing out again and every time I can: the Catholic Church is a huge tent, and included in it is a group of people who take "womb-to-tomb" to mean no abortion, capital punishment, war, torture or economic / social subjugation. While we're a minority, if you define a church by the people in it and not just the people who run it, we're here and we're Catholic too.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 9:18 AM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


People throw the word "fascist" around so carelessly on MetaFilter that sometimes I get confused and think it's an episode of The Young Ones.
posted by The World Famous at 9:27 AM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


People throw the word "fascist" around so carelessly on MetaFilter that sometimes I get confused and think it's an episode of The Young Ones.

I feel that way about Fox News.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:39 AM on December 11, 2009


People throw the word "fascist" around so carelessly on MetaFilter that sometimes I get confused and think it's an episode of The Young Ones.

I feel that way about Fox News.


I would watch Fox News if Vyvyan, Neil, Mike, and Rick were in charge.
posted by The World Famous at 9:45 AM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Has the Supreme Court become too Catholic?

The 1830s are over. Outside of a goofball fundie fringe, nobody cares about Catholicism vs. Protestantism anymore.

In the twenty-first century, race and partisan identity trump Christian denomination. When Clarence Thomas was put forward as a candidate, how much attention did people pay to his Catholicism?
posted by jason's_planet at 10:03 AM on December 11, 2009


People throw the word "fascist" around so carelessly

Yeah...using to describe a cult started by a Spanish fascist! How sloppy!
posted by Jimmy Havok at 12:19 PM on December 11, 2009


Yeah...using to describe a cult started by a Spanish fascist! How sloppy!

Actually, above it was used not to describe the cult, but to describe two unnamed and unidentified Supreme Court justices.
posted by The World Famous at 12:22 PM on December 11, 2009


...two unnamed and unidentified Supreme Court justices...

...who belong to a cult started by a Spanish fascist, which takes complete control of the lives of its members. See how that works?
posted by Jimmy Havok at 12:29 PM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


...two unnamed and unidentified Supreme Court justices...

...who belong to a cult started by a Spanish fascist, which takes complete control of the lives of its members. See how that works?


Which says nothing about whether or not the justices in question are fascists. Seriously, you're sounding more and more like Vyvyan.

(Of course, they also belong to a cult started by a Middle Eastern deity who was a Jew. Does that mean that they, too, are Jewish deities?)
posted by The World Famous at 12:45 PM on December 11, 2009


That's some specious reasoning, TWF, if you think "Jew" and "deity" are the same kinds of characteristic as "fascist".
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:47 PM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


That's some specious reasoning, TWF, if you think "Jew" and "deity" are the same kinds of characteristic as "fascist".

That is a very good point. Let me revise it somewhat. They belong to a cult started by a renowned pacifist. Does that mean that they, too, are pacifists?

Pope Guilty, are you subscribing to the theory that two unidentified Supreme Court justices are fascists based solely on the allegation that they allegedly belong to Opus Dei, which was founded by a fascist in 1928? Can I fairly attribute to you all political beliefs held by the founders of each and every organization to which you belong? Have you or Jimmy Havok done some sort of analysis of the jurisprudence of these unidentified justices that would support the theory that they share the political beliefs of Josemaria Escriva, or are the fact that he founded Opus Dei and the allegation that they are members thereof enough to conclude that they, like Thatcher, are fascists?
posted by The World Famous at 12:57 PM on December 11, 2009


(Of course, they also belong to a cult started by a Middle Eastern deity who was a Jew. Does that mean that they, too, are Jewish deities?)

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Demi-deity. And the cult was started by his buddies, not him.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:58 PM on December 11, 2009


Good point. The Supreme Court justices are, therefore, buddies of a demi-deity.
posted by The World Famous at 1:00 PM on December 11, 2009


Some of the buddies were whores, so there's also that.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:02 PM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


TWF, I am not a member of any organization that was founded for the furtherance of moral or philosophical principles; I would not join any such organization if I had issues with that.

(Also Jesus was manifestly not a pacifist; he talked a good game, but when his buttons were pushed, he flipped out like any mammal.)
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:29 PM on December 11, 2009


Yes!
posted by heathkit at 2:00 PM on December 11, 2009


Thanks for clearing that up, World Famous. No need to worry that two members of the Supreme Court are members of a cult started by a fascist that takes complete control of its members' lives, since they might not actually be fascist after all, despite all their various rulings in favor of authoritarian state power, and the contempt they have displayed for civil rights in their opinions.

I feel much better about the whole thing now.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 5:46 PM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think you don't know very much about Scalia's views on judging.

Scalia has been pretty outspoken about the idea that his Catholic ideals about the right ordering of society do not influence his legal decisions. He holds, I understand, as many conservative (in both political and religious senses) Catholics do that it is his duty to uphold and execute the law as it is written by the legislature and in the Constitution.


It's admirable that he takes that stance, but it is naive to believe that anyone can some how put up a firewall between their political ideas and legal ideas. This is especially true in a case like the supreme court where the legal issues are uncertain and personnel judgement plays such an important role.
posted by afu at 8:43 PM on December 11, 2009


Also, note that Buchanan, the good christian politician that he is, is lying when he says that no evangelical christian has ever been on the Court. The officiant of Rush Limbaugh's third marriage, Clarence "Coke Zero" Thomas, was a fundie evangelical associated with the "charismatic Truro Episcopalian church while he was on the bench and only recently began describing himself as a catholic.
posted by minimii at 3:54 AM on December 12, 2009


Pope Guilty: (Also Jesus was manifestly not a pacifist; he talked a good game, but when his buttons were pushed, he flipped out like any mammal.)

I would think "they who live by the sword die by the sword" proves that Jesus manifestly was a pacifist, but tell me where I'm wrong.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 8:43 AM on December 12, 2009


Are you under the impression that "casting the moneychangers out of the temple" involves asking them politely to leave?
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:46 AM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I wonder whether this discussion is really about whether the Court has become too Catholic, which is one issue, or whether it has failed to become a bastion of moral relativism. Either of these issues are interesting but are not the same.

If the issue is actually Catholicism, American Catholics are a diverse bunch when it comes to political and legal opinions. As others have noted, Brennan and Scalia are both Catholics but certainly not ideological allies. As to what Catholics may bring to the bench as far as beliefs, they are no more or less exciting than the beliefs other religious people may bring, but are certainly part of a more robust and well known body of theology than might present in the cases of other religions. Ultimately each Catholic, Protestant, Jew, or any other must make their own choice, and the Catholics on the Court do just that and always have.

If, as I suspect, the objection is to moral absolutism rather than Catholicism, there is something more interesting to discuss. Should justices have moral absolutes? If they do, then they will rule in those ways, whereas if not, law will become unpredictable as shifting opinions will lead to different rulings. Personally, I favor dealing with a court of competing absolutes in so far as it favors consistency over time. I would prefer that these absolutes be economically based, but absolutes are easier to deal with when trying to determine what the law is.
posted by epsilon at 6:59 PM on December 12, 2009


I love how religious people use "moral absolutism" and "moral relativism" to mean "agrees with my moral values" and "disagrees with my moral values".
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:14 PM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Upon further reckoning, I think I know why there's so many Catholics on the Court. Many of the nation's top bread-and-butter law schools are Catholic. Duh. Well, closer inspection reveals they're actually run by the Jesuits.

Having gone to a Jesuit high school. I can say with some certainty why so many law schools are run by Jesuits: them Jesuits sure do like to fuckin' argue. The make Metafilter look like a god-damned mutual admiration society.
posted by notsnot at 8:25 PM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Upon further reckoning, I think I know why there's so many Catholics on the Court. Many of the nation's top bread-and-butter law schools are Catholic. Duh. Well, closer inspection reveals they're actually run by the Jesuits.

It is more due to the abortion debate that forces fearful politicians to select Catholics so that committees will rubber stamp them with few surprises. If the hot button issue of the day was prohibition, then there would be six Mormons on the court, two of them drinkers.
posted by Brian B. at 8:33 PM on December 12, 2009


I love how religious people use "moral absolutism" and "moral relativism" to mean "agrees with my moral values" and "disagrees with my moral values".

I don't mean this in the sense that one is an absolutist if they agree with me and a relativist if they don't. People can believe in competing absolute notions and that is a legitimate grounds for discussion. For instance Scalia thinks it is an absolute right of the state to execute people and I hold it is absolutely not right, but that does not mean I think Scalia is a relativist.
posted by epsilon at 11:33 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Nobody hates Scalia for being a relativist, epsilon. People hate Scalia for being completely morally and intellectually bankrupt and for apparently taking pleasure in the misery of others.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:45 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


[T]wo members of the Supreme Court are members of a cult started by a fascist [and have a multitude of] various rulings in favor of authoritarian state power, and [have shown] contempt ... for civil rights in their opinions.

I'm assuming that Scalia is one of the alleged Opus Dei members? Because the view that Scalia's jurisprudence is in favor of "authoritarian state power" is ignorant and unnuanced. See, e.g., Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, 542 U.S. 507 (2004) (Scalia, J. dissenting, joined by Stevens, J., arguing that holding Hamdi as an enemy combatant was unconstitutional, full stop, unless and until Congress were to suspend the writ of habeas corpus); United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005) (holding that federal sentencing factors must be subject to a jury finding beyond a reasonable doubt); District of Columbia v. Heller, 128 S. Ct. 2783 (2008) (striking down and holding unconstitutional Federal limits on individual ownership of firearms).

He's certainly not a progressive, and you shouldn't read into this an endorsement of his particular brand of biased jurisprudence, but to say that he rules in favor of authoritarian state power and suggest that he's a fascist is... to put it lightly... grossly inaccurate.
posted by jock@law at 9:18 AM on December 14, 2009


O, hurray! Scalia ruled against giving up some of his own personal power!
posted by Jimmy Havok at 2:28 PM on December 14, 2009


Jimmy Havok, I'm no fan of Scalia's either, but he's one of those weird "villanous" justices where there's something for everyone to like. For me, it's that he's hardline on tough judicial standards in order to convict criminals. Even Scalia is far from black and white.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:59 PM on December 14, 2009


No one is perfect, not even perfectly evil. But Scalia does a damned good job of getting close.

Thomas's laziness and what-he-said attitude is slightly leavened by his porn-hound's devotion to the 1st Amendment. But Scalia doesn't even have that. Were he a scientist or a philosopher, his detached attitude toward the limits of knowledge would be bearable. But he has the power of life and death, and throwing up your hands and going "Well, who can know?" when it means someone who very well could be innocent will be executed is as close to real evil as I can imagine.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 8:17 PM on December 14, 2009


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