Sunday, July 19, 2009

Well... we all have our off days...

Richard Albert has another column up, this one at (full disclosure: I know nothing about this web site, other than the fact that they have published Richard). The column is about the Sotomayor nomination, and the fact that it would/will mean six of nine SCOTUS judges will be Roman Catholic.

(On a bit of a pedantic note, Richard's column repeatedly refers to six "Catholic" judges, but there are currently seven Catholic judges - Souter and Stevens are catholic, but they are not Roman Catholic... granted this doesn't really mean much of anything for this discussion.)

As any regular readers will know, I am a fan of Richard's writing. However, I just don't know what his point is on this one. He speaks of the fact that the R.C. make up of the court is being ignored by pundits (though it's not), and that this may be a good signal of America's progress away from anti-Roman Catholic bigotry.

However, he then goes on to write:
That said, there remain some very serious problems– like this or this–that prevent the United States from making real, for one and all, the promise of religious freedom.
But what is he saying in that sentence, and what does it have to do with Sonia Sotomayor's religion (or Clarence Thomas', or John Roberts', or Sam Alito's... or Ruth Bader Ginsburg's, for that matter)?

His first "this" leads us to a story about Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, which posted an anti-Islamic sign (reading, "Islam is of the Devil"). Well, this may be offensive; it may be distasteful; it may be abhorrent. Regardless, it is an example of religious freedom (and naturally, freedom of speech). The Dove World Outreach Centre has the freedom to believe that Islam is, in fact, "of the Devil", as well as the freedom to believe that it is their God-given duty to profess this notion*.

His second "this" leads us to a story about James von Brunn (the guy who shot up the Holocaust museum). Yes, this may be an example of how the U.S. is not "making real...the promise of religious freedom." Fair enough.

...but what does that have to do with the religious make up of the court?

The citizenry might be worried about how the religion of a judge might affect the decisions the judge (though it certainly wouldn't explain Kennedy's decision in Casey), but (a) I would be more concerned with the judicial/political/philosophical record of the prospective justice; and (b) Richard doesn't make this argument.

I've re-read Richard's column a number of times, assuming that I have missed something, but I just can't see what. In the opening paragraph, the R.C. dynamic of the court is said to be incredibly important, but the rest of the column just doesn't follow through on it.

I'm perfectly willing to believe that I'm missing something here. I'm also willing to believe that Richard is right to express concern, but that it wasn't properly articulated in the column. I would really like to hear Richard expand on this topic, because, as it stands, I have to say that this column is a bit of a miss.

*The final word of this paragraph was altered as the meaning was not clear in its original form.

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