Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Religious Tests for Public Office

We can all well recall the infamous moment when Senator Dianne Feinstein scolded Amy Coney Barrett, then a nominee for a judgeship on the U.S. Court of Appeals, that "the dogma lives loudly within you."

Many of us took the opportunity to applaud a person's faithful commitment, and, indeed, I still have my own t-shirt that reads: "The Dogma Lives Loudly Within Me."

But we also more soberly recognized this as an expression of anti-Catholic bias and an improper attempt to invoke religiosity as a disqualification for judicial office.

It is just a wrong when it comes from another direction, trying to evaluate whether a person is religious enough for judicial office.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has proven herself to be a person of strong character and patient generosity, illustrating and saying that her faith has been a source of strength for her.

But that apparently was not enough for Senator Lindsey Graham who had the temerity to ask her: "On a scale of 1 to 10, how faithful would you say you are in terms of religion?" (Whether Graham meant the question or instead was posing a negative parallel to the Justice Barrett incident, the question remained way, way out of bounds.)

Judge Jackson answered appropriately in this way: "I am reluctant to talk about my faith in this way... I want to be mindful of the need for the public to have confidence in my ability to separate out my personal views."

I was thinking of the answer of Saint Joan of Arc to a similar hostile question and how apt it would have been here: "If I be not in a state of grace, I pray God place me in it; if I be in it, I pray God keep me so."



Sisk, Greg | Permalink