Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Greenburg on the Catholic Justices

Looks like I’m not the only one who thinks all this talk of the 5 Catholic justices voting together on the partial birth abortion case is a bunch of hot air. The indispensable Jan Crawford Greenburg says the same thing. She answers Geoffrey Stone’s commentary and also cites some truly idiotic statements from Rosie O’Donnell about it (and there’s a shock).

Comments

  1. #1 RickD
    April 26, 2007

    There are a lot of issues here.

    1) Catholics are more likely to be anti-abortion and anti-Roe than non-Catholics

    2) Republicans in the past two decades have made overturning Roe their primary judicial goal

    3) In particular, Reupblican Presidential candidates are judged by a significant portion of their base on how their judicial nominees vote on abortion issues.

    So is it a coincidence that the five Catholic justices are also the five voting to uphold the partial-birth abortion(sic) ban? Hardly. We cannot be so disingenuous to think that, right?

    This isn’t a case of separation of church and state, though.
    But I do think the Presidents Bush have been appointing Catholics (minus Souter, who turned out to be untrustworthy) because they are particularly convinced that Catholic judges are less likely to veer from anti-choice positions than non-Catholics (again, see Souter, Burger, Blackmun, etc.)

    What Rosie should really focus on is that the law makes no exception for the health of the mother, a clause that prior law had stated was required to pass constitutional muster.

    Hmmm…I see that Thomas has apparently changed from Catholic to Episcopalian and back to Catholic.

    These 5-4 rulings are making a mockery of stare decisis. SCOTUS is becoming just another legislative chamber, but with lifetime appointments and a very convoluted appointment process.

  2. #2 Celoneth
    April 26, 2007

    They aren’t Catholics, but ideologues definetly. One only has to read Scalia’s rants to see that a lot of his reasoning is based on politics and not law. Its one thing to have a judicial philosophy, quite another to ignore law and fact to render decisions favourable to the GOP or the religious right. But Catholicism has nothing to do w/ judicial (or political) philosophy, there are fundamentalists in every religion and Republicans tend to go for those when picking judges.

  3. #3 Poly
    April 26, 2007

    Rick D:

    I am much more wary of bias disguised as ‘rationality’ than I am of ranting, spittle-in-your-face bigotry. That’s because the former wraps itself with a veneer of what appears to be reason.

    However, scrape away that veneer of apparent reason and what really amounts to that same bigotry displays itself.

    Your underlying premise is that Catholics qua Catholics are suspected to owe their first allegiance to something that is not quite American, whereas non-Catholics are expected to perform their full duties as American citizens. In other words, a Catholic is incapable of acting as any American citizen would in deciding, for example, a legal argument.

    You would probably grant that a Catholic should be legally enabled as a person – you are not, I suspect, a raving madman who would say otherwise. Nevertheless, you imply, a Catholic as such would be the sort of person who would bear particular watching to discern his or her ‘true loyalty’.

    You then suggest that Catholics are serving as judges, and certainly as Supreme Court Justices, because by virtue of their being Catholic they would not “veer” from some sort of party line. Where people of other religion – or of no religion at all – would be expected to apply their own reason to making decisions, Catholics would be expected to mindlessly follow a particular direction and reason doesn’t enter into it. Taken to its logical conclusion, that would mean Catholics should simply not be serving in public offices at all. If you do mean that, then please say it. If you don’t mean that, then what in the name of logic are you talking about.

    Historically, the US has been a hotbed of anti-Catholic biases, even from the days of its foundings. For example, it is a fact that part of our Constitution was originally written in the way it was to allow the states to bar what were known then as ‘Papists’ from holding non-federal offices. Many in fact did just that. And until the 14th Amendment was adjudicated to extend Constitutional guarantess beyond strictly Federal offices, it was perfectly legal to do so. All done with the same ‘rationality’, of course, that you have provided here.

  4. #4 Rick D
    April 27, 2007

    Poly: get real.

    Your underlying premise is that Catholics qua Catholics are suspected to owe their first allegiance to something that is not quite American, whereas non-Catholics are expected to perform their full duties as American citizens.

    1) This is utterly assinine

    2) I don’t say anything remotely like this

    3) My family is Catholic and I was raised Catholic, although I’ve left the Church.

    You then suggest that Catholics are serving as judges, and certainly as Supreme Court Justices, because by virtue of their being Catholic they would not “veer” from some sort of party line.

    Yes, I’m accusing the Bush administration(s) of selecting Catholic justices in particular because they feel that Catholics are more likely to be reliably pro-choice than, say, atheists.

    Is that really too controversial to say? I say this knowing that a good proportion of American Catholics are themselves pro-choice (including my mother).

    Where people of other religion – or of no religion at all – would be expected to apply their own reason to making decisions, Catholics would be expected to mindlessly follow a particular direction and reason doesn’t enter into it.

    Not any Catholics, mind you, but a certain type of Catholic can be relied upon to be anti-abortion and to stay anti-abortion. Would you like some examples? Scalia, Thomas, Kennedy, Roberts…

    Taken to its logical conclusion, that would mean Catholics should simply not be serving in public offices at all.

    Not at all. That’s not a logical conclusion of what I say. (I’m a mathematician, so I know a wee bit about logic.)

    What I’m saying is that, if you are a Republican, and you want to pick a person who is going to be reliably anti-choice, you would be well-advised to select a Catholic who is anti-choice. I am making no comment about whether Catholics can be pro-choice.

    Your parser needs a little work.

    Historically, the US has been a hotbed of anti-Catholic biases, even from the days of its foundings.

    Yada yada yada, you really don’t need to lecture me about anti-Catholic biases. I grew up in a Roman Catholic household in Boston with photos of the Kennedys on the wall. I was born the year Bobby was shot. I’m quiet aware of the history of anti-Catholic discrimination. It really isn’t relevant to what I’m saying.

    Back to my point: do you think it’s a coincidence that the five justices are Catholic? Or do you think that it might just be the case that the Republican administrations have been selecting Catholics who are anti-choice because they feel that the combination of religious and cultural background of an anti-choice Catholic makes for a reliable anti-abortion vote on the Court?

    I don’t quite get what is supposed to be controversial. I am accusing the Bush administration(s) of using a religious test for their Court nominations. That such a religious test is used by this administration is in existence should be fairly non-controversial (how many freethinking atheist judges is Bush appointing?) I do not quite see how you can interpret my claim that a religious test exists with an endorsement of the opposite religious test. Indeed, that kind of hyper-sensitivity is, as one would say, not supported by logic.

    If you don’t think unspoken religious tests are used in Washington during the hiring process, all I can say is that you are hopelessly naive. If you are trying to equate the recognition of such tests with the endorsement of the opposite test, what you are then saying is that any complaint about violation of the religous test clause is itself a religious test, and thus the only allowable response is to stick your head in the sand and pretend that the world is just as religion-neutral already as we want it to be.

    That attitude doesn’t strike me as terribly useful. I see no reason to adopt an obviously flawed model of the Bush administration’s thinking. This administration has done more to break down the wall between Church and State than any in 75 years.

  5. #5 Poly_math
    April 27, 2007

    RickD:

    Poly: Your underlying premise is that Catholics qua Catholics are suspected to owe their first allegiance to something that is not quite American, whereas non-Catholics are expected to perform their full duties as American citizens.

    Rick D: I don’t say anything remotely like this

    Your own words:

    I do think the Presidents Bush have been appointing Catholics … because they are particularly convinced that Catholic judges are less likely to veer from anti-choice positions than non-Catholics…I’m accusing the Bush administration(s) of selecting Catholic justices … because they feel that Catholics are more likely to be reliably pro-choice than, say, atheists….Not any Catholics, mind you, but a certain type of Catholic[my emphasis]

    Why a certain type of Catholic in particular? Why not simply a certain type of person?

    Well, I’ll answer those questions, if you don’t mind.

    It is because to you the problem is with the Catholicity of these appointees, not to their specific personal opinions or judgements. It is because simply by their virtue of being Catholic, they will not fully consider their responsibilities as American judges or Justices, and act in a way that can only be called less American than, say, “atheists”.

    Yes, you cleverly attribute those attitudes to “the Presidents Bush” and the “Bush administration(s)” – although they have made no such statements to that effect and those attributions are being made by you alone. You may consider that ruse to be a clever cover-up for your own opinions, but, as I said, scrape the veneer away and we can see what lies beneath.

    As for your being an ex-Catholic, that is completely irrelevent insofar as your current biases are. I don’t know why you are even bringing it up in this context.

  6. #6 Poly
    April 27, 2007

    Rick D (continued):

    Poly:Taken to its logical conclusion, that would mean Catholics should simply not be serving in public offices at all.

    Rick D: Not at all. That’s not a logical conclusion of what I say.

    But you do say that Catholics in general (or, alternatively, “a certain type of Catholic”) are suspect when serving as judges or Justices because their Catholicism as such may get in the way of their duties, whereas other (non-Catholic) persons don’t raise such immediate suspicions for you.

    All federal judges take the same oath of office that other Federal office holders do, and that oath doesn’t contain any religious test – but you are implying that in the case of judges, it should.

    So the questions are: what other public offices would you allow Catholics as such to serve in without imposing a religious test? Wouldn’t Catholicism get in the way of doing a competent job in those other positions as well? If it doesn’t get in the way, why would that be the case? I really would like you to answer these, if you can.

    The bottom line is you can’t wiggle away from your biases. And none of the red herrings you toss around are going to cover it up.