Saturday, January 28, 2006
ABC Jumps The Shark On Pope Alito's Religion
For some people, it's such a sensitive topic they would prefer no one discussed it at all. But if Samuel Alito is confirmed to the Supreme Court, it will be the first time in American history that five sitting justices will be Catholic: Alito, John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy.First, the "some people" who don't want to discuss this at all includes Senator Pat Leahy, who released this letter in 2003 rebuking questioning nominees on their religious affiliation.
Approximately 25 percent of the U.S. population is estimated to be Catholic, so a minority religion would be the majority on the court.
It tends not to be something people make an issue out of, at least publicly, but some liberals do have concerns about such a Catholic court.
"There is some fear that they might perhaps, on some issues like abortion, carry out a kind of Catholic jurisprudence rather than reflecting a broader point of view," said John Green, a senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
Can you imagine ABC writing an article mentioning that four of the eight Democratic senators on the Judiciary Committee are Jewish, and noting gravely that Jews only consititute 2.2 percent of the American population. They would, of course, quote some David Dukite muttering about concerns that a tiny religious minority was controlling the appointments to the federal judiciary. By the way, the other four Democratic senators on the Judiciary Committee are Catholic, and one of the Jeeeeeeeeeeews gets a very high rating from the National Catholic Social Justice Lobby. KKKlearly A KKKonspiracy by the Jews and the Catholics to keep Catholics off the Supreme Court.
Or maybe not, after all. ABC forgets to mention that all four Catholic Democratic senators voted against Alito's confirmation, which just might, you know, be the first clue as to why the general population is not frantic about Alito being a Catholic, because indeed, Catholics in this country have a rather strong liberal streak as well. In fact, the only people really concerned about this seem to be the Klan and ABC. You would think that this would give ABC pause, wouldn't you? But no, it just gets better!
The article backs up by looking at the traditional prejudice against Catholics (and Irish, and then Italians - MoM) in the US, but goes on to include this remarkable, remarkable quote:
Today's silence on the issue is notable even to some Catholics.The pope will be the fifth vote on the court? I missed the news item detailing Alito's elevation to that high religious office, and I suspect highly selective quoting is at play here. Congratulations, Pope Sammy! It turns out that, according to an independent analysis (FactCheck), Pope Alito is a near absolutist on the issues of religious freedom and freedom of speech. For example, Pope Alito stands firm on the idea that Muslims on the Newark police force have the right to wear beards and believes that broadly written anti-harassment speech policies violate the First Amendment. Also, dang it, the Pennsylvania legislature can't pass a law forbidding college newspapers to carry alcohol ads.
"You would think that even at least outside Catholic circles, there would still be more consternation that this might be of some significance that now the pope (!!!!-MOM) will be the fifth vote on the court," said Dennis Coyle, a professor at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. "It is a sign of how far we've come, I guess, that it is so unremarkable."
For more about Dennis Coyle's opinions about Supreme Court nominations, see this National Review article about Miers. I suspect he is not twitching in fear about the Pope's votes on the Supreme Court.
ABC disgraced itself with this article. It is demagoguery cloaked as commentary and designed to stir up concerns that have been, by popular consensus, ruled out of the public square. From Senator Leahy's 2003 letter:
As we all know, a line was crossed recently when the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee asked a judicial nominee his religious affiliation – over the bipartisan objections of other Senators present – at an official confirmation hearing. This injection of religion into the judicial confirmation process – unprecedented, at least in modern times -- was then used to set the stage for religious attacks against Members of the Senate in paid ads produced by an outside advocacy group.PS: As for why I support Pope Alito's nomination so strongly, please see this FirstAmendmentCenter.org analysis of the Pope's judicial thinking.
Senators differ on the merits of the nomination of William Pryor to be a judge on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, but we hope there can be universal agreement that the introduction of religion into such debates is not only wrong but also harmful to the Senate, to the independence of the federal judiciary, and to the people we represent.
The problem is that Alito is the unideological person here, and the opposition casting around for evidence that he is an ideological extremist are continually forced into stupider and stupider arguments.
This would all be very funny if it weren't indicating a severe flaw in our ability to discuss such matters clearly.
Carl of No Oil For Pacifists has a very interesting lineup of quotes from the floor debate. This is Senator Kohl:
Generations of Americans have looked to the Supreme Court as more than a simple legal tribunal asked to decide cases and controversies. Rather, we expect the Supreme Court to guard our liberties, protect our rights and, where appropriate, expand our freedoms.
I added the emphasis. What Kohl is arguing is that the Supreme Court has the responsibility to make law based on enlightened principles. This turns the Supreme Court into a high priesthood of sorts. Justice Alito holds a very different view. He believes that the Constitution is law, and that the Court is bound both by the Constitution and any laws passed by Congress which are consistent with the Constitution. In his view, it is Congress's job to "expand freedoms where appropriate".
The irony here is that the liberals are arguing that justices should be popes of the law, and that because of the vast expanse of papal/judicial power only very safe popes should be appointed to the Supreme Court, from whence they will rule out of their judicial infallibility. The conservatives are arguing the opposite position.
Thus Kohl is arguing that the Supreme Court should be a passel of Popes, and the "Papal nominee" is arguing that, thank you, he is neither infallible nor capable of coming up with irrefutable divine law - Alito wants the law of the people to prevail.
ABC is doing its very, very best to hide the real nature of this debate.