I’m a man. I’m Roman Catholic. I’m a heterosexual. And yet the Senate’s impending confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court worries me.
‘But why should it’ someone might ask; after all, aren’t these conservative values more inline with my personal beliefs?
Do I not believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman?
Do I not believe in the sanctity of life from conception?
And why should I care about women’s rights?
Well, the answer is simple – my personal beliefs don’t matter. In my opinion, the only opinion that should matter when it comes to the law (I know that’s repetitive) is that it should apply to all equally. And, to that end, should expand to be as inclusive as possible.
The First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
The problem that arises here is the question of whether the individuals who make up said government can separate their own personal beliefs from executing their duties.
Senator Dianne Feinstein of California made this point when she addressed Barrett in 2017 and explained why Democrats opposed her. “Why is it that so many of us on this side have this very uncomfortable feeling that dogma and law are two different things, and I think whatever a religion is, it has its own dogma. The law is totally different,” Feinstein said. “And I think in your case, professor, when you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And that’s of concern.”
Here’s some interesting statistics regarding the religious makeup of the Congress and the Supreme Court.
-54.9% of Members (233 in the House, 60 in the Senate) are Protestant, with Baptist as the most represented denomination, followed by Methodist.
-30.5% of Members (141 in the House, 22 in the Senate) are Catholic.
-6.4% of Members (26 in the House, 8 in the Senate) are Jewish.
-1.9% of Members (6 in the House, 4 in the Senate) are Mormon (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).
-2 Members (1 in the House, 1 in the Senate) are Buddhist, 3 Representatives are Muslim, and 3 Representatives are Hindu.
-All six Supreme Court justices appointed by Republican presidents were raised Catholic.
-There is one Protestant justice — Gorsuch — in a country that is majority Protestant.
-The proportion of Jewish justices is also larger than the percentage of Jewish lawmakers in the House and Senate.
-There has only been one Roman Catholic president – John Kennedy (Joe Biden, if elected, would be the second).
It’s interesting to look at how the make up these (small) bodies reflect the makeup of the wider population. Now, their religions shouldn’t matter, and we like to think that the character of the individual is what should count. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen time and time again, that’s not always the case. Granted, some people what their pubic servants to share their beliefs. But that doesn’t make it – for lack of a better word – right. The reality is that a lot of developed, democratic countries are not homogeneous societies; their demographic makeup is changing. So the laws of the land can’t favour the traditional or the majority; they must protect and advance the rights of all its citizens.
Therefore, religion and any other personal beliefs must be disregarded in favour of what is best for the society, both as a whole as well as a collection of individuals. The Declaration of Independence reads of the right to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”; I believe that every individual has a right to those things, as long as it doesn’t interfere with anyone else’s right.
So, yes, what Justice Amy Coney Barrett thinks, feels, and believes is important to us if her decisions are guided by them.
President Kennedy once had to reassure the American public that he may get his religion from Rome, but his politics from home. We should hold our pubic servants to no less of a standard.