May 19th, 2010
08:58 AM ET

Do 6 Catholics + 3 Jews = 9 Protestants?

Religion scholar Stephen Prothero will be a regular contributor to CNN's Belief Blog. With his bestselling book "Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know–And Doesn't," Prothero became the country's leading explainer of how religion undergirds much of American life and history - in ways that most us don't realize. With his new book, "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," the Boston University professor has taken his franchise global. A few times each week, Prothero will offer posts on the hidden faith angles behind the news.

By Stephen Prothero, CNN Belief Blog contributor

I think I might have done the math wrong.

Shortly after President Obama nominated Elena Kagan (who is Jewish) to replace Justice John Paul Stevens (who is Protestant) on the Supreme Court, I was quoted in Boston Globe, Beliefnet, and CNN stories, saying that her nomination represented one giant step away from the not-so-good-old-days of Protestant parochialism. "I don't think this means Protestant America is over,” I told the AP, “but I do think it means the old way of thinking about Protestant America is over."

On Monday morning in USA Today I argued, against bloggers like Beliefnet’s Rod Dreher, that the religious commitments of judges matter. I then called for a more religiously diverse Supreme Court. Why not an agnostic? An evangelical? A Muslim?

In all these articles, I was doing the math like this: 6 Catholics + 3 Jews = 0 Protestants. I’m no longer sure that’s right.

Shortly after I filed my USA Today piece, I had a conversation with Nora Rubel, a University of Rochester religion professor and an observant Jew. Professor Rubel said that most Catholics in America think pretty much like most Protestants, so the Supreme Court’s Protestant/Catholic mix doesn’t really matter. I then observed that many Reform Jews are equally Protestantized, which led us to wonder whether the Jewish/Christian mix doesn’t really matter either.

The Protestant ethos has long ruled American political institutions.  The current Congress is 55 percent Protestant, and every president except for John F. Kennedy has been an heir of the Reformation. But Protestantism also colors America’s religious institutions, and not always inside the lines of Protestant denominations. 

Today many U.S. Catholics and Jews think like Protestants. They believe that religion is something we choose as individuals rather than inherit as communities, and they view it primarily in terms of faith rather than practice.  None of this comes from either the Catholic brain of Aquinas or the Jewish mind of Maimonides. The progenitor of this faith-based understanding of religion (who also happens to be the patron saint of religion rulings at the U.S. Supreme Court) is the American Protestant thinker William James, who famously defined religion as "the feelings, acts, and experiences of individual men in their solitude, so far as they apprehend themselves to stand in relation to whatever they may consider the divine.”

When Supreme Court justices genuflect before this subjective understanding of religion - and most, perhaps all, of today’s sitting justices do - they are thinking like Protestants.  And there is little to suggest that Elena Kagan, whose bat mitzvah occurred in a Reconstructionist synagogue in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, would not go and do likewise.

So if you do the math more carefully, it may go something like this: 6 Catholics + 3 Jews = 9 Protestants.  Either way, we could use more religious diversity on the Supreme Court.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Courts • Judaism • Opinion • Protestant

soundoff (820 Responses)
  1. vizi

    welcome to the america of 18th century , and I thot we have progressed at least on the upper sphere

    this is a sickening headline I have read in some time

    May 19, 2010 at 10:36 am |
  2. PLang

    Very strange! In the face of Protestant fear that they will be underrepresented on the Court, Prothero suggests that, dispite their non-Protestant backgrounds, the justices think too much alike and too much like Protestants. Strange indeed!

    May 19, 2010 at 10:36 am |
  3. Jeff

    This is what you come to expect when talking about a supreme court full of Ivy Leaguers. Go to any Ivy league schoo and I'm not sure but I bet if you grab a random 9 students you'll probably get a similar result. Religion has no place in a court room, the bible needs to be taken out of there as an oath tool, religion is a dangerous thing to have in government period, both for the practicers of the religion and the people who don't. Its just better for everyone as long as this remains a free and democratic society.

    May 19, 2010 at 10:36 am |
    • Mark

      And who precisely would you populate the church with? Joe the Plumber? I did not attend an Ivy League, nor you by your bias – but I would much sooner one of their abilities than your choices.

      May 19, 2010 at 10:55 am |
    • scb

      The term WASP was practically coined to describe the people who attend and graduate from ivy league schools. I'd bet if you grabbed a random 9 individuals at most ivy league schools you would not get a 6/9 split, regardless of the modern trend to enhance diversity in college admissions.

      May 20, 2010 at 1:37 pm |
  4. Walter in San Diego

    I'm so sick of hearing about religious diversity in our FEDERAL Supreme Court. Why can't we be a little more evolved and appreciate the diverse experience and level of intelligence a Supreme Court Justice brings to the table. What this guy is really saying is that we need less Jews and less Catholics. This guy sounds like a bigot and a moron.

    May 19, 2010 at 10:36 am |
    • Doug in Santa Barbara

      I agree with you, Walter! In my opinion, religious affiliations should be hidden (like under gag order) in ALL court justices. Religion should play no roll in the highest court of the country.

      May 19, 2010 at 10:53 am |
    • derek

      correct. less jew and catholic is good for the "intelligence of evolution"

      May 19, 2010 at 10:59 am |
    • Mike

      I agree with Doug. I think the same should happen in political elections. Anyone running for office should not be able to declare their religious affiliation. Service to your country should supercede devotion to your faith, otherwise you're only half-assing it.

      May 19, 2010 at 11:32 am |
  5. Anthony

    who cares about what religion is on the supreme court? stop worrying about religion and get the job done

    May 19, 2010 at 10:35 am |
  6. shane

    what about having some atheist representation? god forbid...

    May 19, 2010 at 10:35 am |
    • Jason

      Okay....the "god forbid" was a nice touch!! LOL

      May 19, 2010 at 10:57 am |
    • Ben

      That's easy. Because they are stupid

      May 19, 2010 at 11:00 am |
    • Ben

      I just realized my response makes no sense! Feel free to make fun of me!

      May 19, 2010 at 11:03 am |
    • kevin

      LOL, did you just call atheists stupid? care to elaborate on that claim? Your statement is funny to me, since plenty of studies show people that identify themselves as atheists have higher IQs. But I mean, religious people don't give much creedence to the scientific method to begin with, so I don't know how you will be able to back-up that statement with any kind of evidence

      May 19, 2010 at 11:05 am |
  7. Boof

    What the hell does this story have to do with anything? It's crapola like this that continues to fuel the fires of ignorance in our country.

    May 19, 2010 at 10:35 am |
  8. Torch Rivera

    Why do we have to pifeonhole every aspect of people's organizational make-up. This is America and her diversity is the strength that makes her the greatest place for opportunity. Labeling people into a group because they were born into that group does not make them exactly as the label connotes. I admire the U. S. Supreme court for in their wisdom and collective thought isssues that are important to America are discussed and the result is amazing. It has been very progressive even though at times reflected the current societal practices, but the Court has been also instrumental in laying the foundation for the free society we all live in today. Stop labeling, pay attention to the ruling.

    May 19, 2010 at 10:35 am |
  9. Martin

    I agree with Bill Maher. What about seperation of Church and State? It's time we had an ATHEIST on the Supreme Court.

    May 19, 2010 at 10:34 am |
    • Benjamin

      HEAR, HEAR!

      May 19, 2010 at 10:38 am |
    • Truther

      Yeah, he or she would be the only one with a brain!!!

      May 19, 2010 at 10:46 am |
    • kevin

      Amen to that 🙂

      May 19, 2010 at 11:06 am |
    • Mike

      Every group has their moment. African Americans finally have seen a black president, eventually a woman will be elected and women will have their moment. When a publicly-acknowledged (because I am sure some of these guys who say they are religious really aren't) athesist becomes president (or even supreme court justice), that will be my moment.

      May 19, 2010 at 11:28 am |
    • steve

      Most of you (including the author) are completely missing the point of Supreme Court nominations. When making an appointment you look for the MOST QUALIFIED canditate. Religious affiliation is completely ancillary to an appointment. How many Hindu, Agnostic, Muslim, or Atheist QUALIFIED canditates are there? Look at federal judges and legal scholars for example, I bet collectively they number in the single digit percentages. It just so happens there are a lot of Catholics and Jews in the legal profession – who cares. The people on the high court are brilliant and only that should matter to an appointment.

      May 19, 2010 at 12:51 pm |
  10. Jubi

    And a partridge in a pear tree????..........Does any even give a S...

    May 19, 2010 at 10:34 am |
  11. Anon

    I am much more concerned about the lack of Muslims, pagans and atheists on the Court.

    May 19, 2010 at 10:34 am |
    • JK Smalley

      I agree. Keep it fair and balanced. The Supreme Court should reflect the fabric of America.

      May 19, 2010 at 10:48 am |
  12. summarex

    As a Catholic I am mortified at how unfair this is to Protestants.
    The solution is simple. Throw out the 3 Jews and replace them with 3 protestants.

    May 19, 2010 at 10:34 am |
    • Anon

      You are a moron.

      May 19, 2010 at 10:34 am |
    • Neo

      crawl back under your rock

      May 19, 2010 at 10:37 am |
    • gingit

      I was just thinking how happy I was that there were such intelligent comments about this article, until I got to your comment.

      May 19, 2010 at 10:43 am |
    • Aaron

      How anti-Semitic of you. Lets make those 3 "new" justices Nazis, right?

      May 19, 2010 at 10:43 am |
    • Anon

      If you choose to be ignorant, fine. But don't spread your mental filth. Way to utterly contradict the core message of this article... why did you even bother to comment? Before you open your mouth, go read a book and educate yourself.

      May 19, 2010 at 10:47 am |
    • Bobby

      your idiotic comment goes to the root of all our problems in this country, bigotry and hatred!

      May 19, 2010 at 10:49 am |
    • meh

      haha... I read this with complete sarcasm – at least I hope... 🙂 O.k. we can crawl underneath our rocks now for not getting sarcasm...

      May 19, 2010 at 10:52 am |
    • Mark

      it is for reasons like that we are thankful you will never be choosing the next SC Justice.

      May 19, 2010 at 10:52 am |
    • Nelli Quetzal

      I love your sense of humor

      May 19, 2010 at 11:00 am |
    • Kasey

      As a Jew, I am mortified by your comment. Are we even now?

      May 19, 2010 at 11:05 am |
    • Concerned

      Do you fly an American flag or a swastika outside your house?

      May 19, 2010 at 11:13 am |
    • meh

      If sarcasm, as I beleive, it is the commenters that cause fighting, fear and war. One comment read literally and the person is stoned to death with words. And we all wonder why there are wars..... oops, sarcasm not allowed. Did no one else read about as a Catholic feeling sorry for a Protestant>> hehe The protestants call Catholics carnivores and papists. Check the reference numbers in the back of your Book of Psalms. As far as I know, it is still in current prayerbooks throughout the US. We all are ignorant.... which is we will always have war. Very sad actually..... considering at the end of the day we are all born, live/breathe and die regardless of our Faith... Yes I realize we actually argue and fight over a life that exists when we are dead – which is kind of hilarious in itself! Wow – cant wait to die to see who was right.... LOTS OF SARCASM....

      May 19, 2010 at 11:25 am |
    • Hannah

      OK, then summarex....was it sarcasm or not...let's get this cleared up....sarcasm is often lost in text, especially in the context of a heated and sensitive debate.

      May 19, 2010 at 11:53 am |
    • meh

      @Hannah I vote you run our free world.... you were the only intelligent person to clarify a person's words and not base it on your own assumptions. Kudos to you!!!!

      I would be curious on the answer, I personally was speculating it was sarcasm. If each of us processed information in the exact same way – there would be no reason for religion, laws or anything else organized. We would all know and think the same thing..... 🙂 We would all be living in the same oblivion whether we were right or wrong... hehe

      May 19, 2010 at 12:38 pm |
  13. Tina

    Great question! I'm afraid we will never have an atheist or an agnostic on the Supreme Court, though, because that's still so politically "unacceptable." It's a shame, because that group represents an increasingly large segment of the U.S. public.

    May 19, 2010 at 10:34 am |
  14. Brian

    Does the idea of more diversity on the SC include atheists? Shouldn't that diversity include someone who is not bound or heavily influenced by a religous ideology?

    May 19, 2010 at 10:34 am |
    • Jesse

      Atheists are still bound by a religous ideology, it is just their own. It is illogical to think that atheism is any less of a faith-based belief than any other religion on the planet. Just as ignorant at the comments on here suggesting that protestants aren't smart enough to be on the supreme court, or that somehow atheists are smarter than all 9 supreme court justices.

      May 19, 2010 at 11:06 am |
    • kevin

      Atheism is not a religion; It isn't dogmatic. Like Sam harris points out, there is no need to identify yourself as a "non-astrologer", you are just someone who was not been convinced that astrology has any merit to begin with. The term "atheist" is dangerous for that reason, because it allows people to classify us as having some kind of dogmatic system of beliefs, when in fact, we just demand evidence. Unlike other religions, our beliefs are based on factual evidence. It is a stark contrast to eastern and western religions that make claims to known things which they do not know.

      May 19, 2010 at 11:12 am |
    • Mike

      That makes absolutely no sense. 1/2 of a pie, is "some" pie. No pie is the absence of pie, it is not 0/2 pie. If you don't have a religion, you don't follow the religion of "No religion", you simply lack a religion. I think I can see why someone would doubt your intelligence.

      May 19, 2010 at 11:24 am |
    • Chris

      Uh, MIke, point of fact: 0 = 0/1 = 0/2 = 0/3 = ...

      I learned that in grade school. Besides. I BELIEVE in pie.

      May 19, 2010 at 12:27 pm |
  15. Benjamin

    Are you serious? This is completely ridiculous. For one, separation of church and state... and for another, what about the atheists, Buddhists, etc?!

    May 19, 2010 at 10:33 am |
    • kevin

      I should note, Atheism is not a religion; It isn't dogmatic. Like Sam harris points out, there is no need to identify yourself as a "non-astrologer", you are just someone who was not been convinced that astrology has any merit to begin with. The term "atheist" is dangerous for that reason, because it allows people to classify us as having somekind of dogmatic system of beliefs, when in fact, we just demand evidence.

      May 19, 2010 at 11:10 am |
    • kanon

      kevin, spare us the semantics.

      May 19, 2010 at 11:28 am |
    • kevin

      LOLOL semantics? are you kidding me? there is a MASSIVE difference between being a non-theist and a theist, it is hardly semantics. You are essentially disqualifying the scientific method as a system to justify belief.

      LOL at calling it semantics. L.O.L.

      May 19, 2010 at 11:36 am |
    • jayjay

      Hey Kevin,

      Definitely respect Sam Harris and much of what he has to offer. As a possible area of interest and investigation, you might also check out Ken Wilbur's "The Spectrum of Consciousness".

      Wilbur offer's a compelling discussion of "East-West" orientations. And makes a well-argued case for the limitations of the "scientific method", particularly when searching for truth & reality.

      May 19, 2010 at 12:31 pm |
    • jayjay

      PS Kevin

      I agree, words are important. As limited as they are in meaning and truth.

      May 19, 2010 at 12:33 pm |
    • kevin

      @ JayJay,

      i'll check that out, thanks

      May 19, 2010 at 1:41 pm |
  16. chris

    as a religious person and someone who believes in seperation of church and state........does it really matter??? these ppl believe in the same GOD!!! 6 believe jesus was his son and our savior and 3 believe jesus was an interesting person and not our savior! we could have a hindu.....islam (real islam not radical fly planes into buildings and blowing ppl up)....and an atheist???

    May 19, 2010 at 10:33 am |
    • joseph

      Let's see... uhhh one group killed jesus the other one did'nt!. Was that a trick question. Religion does play a role since these people will write laws that can change this country's landscape. Ignorant to think this does not matter. If it were ALL jews or ALL Muslims.. there would be an uproar. Let's not pretend.

      May 19, 2010 at 10:51 am |
    • Jeffe

      The Romans killed Jesus you idiot. Not the Jews.

      May 19, 2010 at 11:05 am |
    • meh

      actually God took his only son.... how could he offer redemption without his Death. So God killed Jesus if you get to the point. Part of God's plan....... or we could even say humanity killed Jesus. If the original people hadnt sinned – we would be living in a world of ho ho's and candy.... Yes – I am Roman Catholic. I think it is ignorant to say one "race" of people killed Him.... This is excactly why our world is where it is today.....complete ignorance.

      May 19, 2010 at 11:16 am |
    • Ally

      Dear Chris,
      Islam is a religion. You can't be "an Islam"


      May 19, 2010 at 12:27 pm |
    • TsihCitnA

      As a peaceful, moral, tax paying agnostic, I have to also ask.... Where is the judge that will interpret the law well enough to meet my standards? I count zero at this point. It would be nice if some elected official had the decency to recognize that. I know I'm not the only one.

      May 19, 2010 at 12:51 pm |
    • Joe Shmoe

      I think this is all ridiculous. The Supreme Court Justices are chosen based on merit, not by religion. As long as they will serve our country well and make good decisions, I couldn't care less what religion they are. If all 9 justices were perfect for their job and were great justices, but they were all white protestant men, I wouldn't care, because they would serve justice. This whole idea of "how about an atheist on the supreme court? or buddhist? or muslim? or hindu?" is really stupid because you shouldn't choose somebody just to get more diversity. You should choose somebody if you think they'll be a good justice.

      May 19, 2010 at 1:28 pm |
    • Joe Shmoe

      Dear Joseph,
      Please shut up. The Romans killed Jesus, not the Jews. Get your facts straight.

      May 19, 2010 at 1:29 pm |
    • Steve

      To all of you who say the Roman's killed Jesus: if you want to spit hairs, yes they did. But only because Pilot was pressured by the Jews to do it. But as a Christian, I will never say the Jews were not doing exactly what God wanted them to do. After all, he sent Jesus to be the perfect sacrifice. He used the Jews and the Romans to achieve His goal. 🙂

      May 24, 2010 at 12:19 pm |
  17. Alan

    WHO CARES! I can't believe something so insignificant made headline news.

    May 19, 2010 at 10:33 am |
  18. Jen

    How come there is no mention of atheists?

    May 19, 2010 at 10:31 am |
    • ERV

      Thank you so much for this comment!!!!! Why in our society to day do we have to make decisions based on our religious affiliations? why can the law be based on society's moral beliefs regardless of religion!

      May 19, 2010 at 10:38 am |
    • chris

      that's b/c ppl believe atheists have no morals!!! not personal opinion by the way!!!!

      May 19, 2010 at 10:40 am |
    • donnie brasco

      6 catholics + 3 jews = 0 atheists. happy now?

      May 19, 2010 at 10:42 am |
    • Soda Bob Curtis

      Because atheists are just agnostics that don't think they can be wrong about their disbelief 🙂

      May 19, 2010 at 10:49 am |
    • Matt

      most morals get their start from religion... Ten commandments, Five Pillars etc etc

      May 19, 2010 at 10:51 am |
    • Jason

      Because churches/mosques/synagogues all believe they have a monopoly on good and benevolence. They also believe that atheists have a monopoly on evil and greed. In reality, there is no monopoly on morals from either side of the "belief" fence.

      May 19, 2010 at 10:52 am |
    • Bickle

      It's sad when Atheists & Agnostics make the majority of the population yet they are never represented anywhere.

      May 19, 2010 at 10:54 am |
    • patrick murphy

      im guessing athiesm isnt considered a faith.. Since there is no faith invovled..

      May 19, 2010 at 10:56 am |
    • Cory Dupont

      ...because Atheism isn't a religion Jen! It is an anti-belief system of thought.

      May 19, 2010 at 11:01 am |
    • Tina

      Not at all, Cory. Atheists have quite strong beliefs. They just don't happen to involve a god. I think the term you're looking for is "religious faith."

      May 19, 2010 at 11:13 am |
    • Paolo

      Haha, ERV, there is no morality without religion.

      May 19, 2010 at 11:19 am |
    • Fahim Lodhi

      And how many Muslims are there? Are we still going to seclude them from the government?

      May 19, 2010 at 11:21 am |
    • Megan

      Paolo, you're an idiot. It's fine to base your morals on a religion but to say that it requires one is just dumb.

      May 19, 2010 at 11:49 am |
    • withheld

      The real question is, when did athiesm become a religion?

      May 19, 2010 at 11:56 am |
    • David

      lol, what Soda Bob Curtis said. Agnosticism is the reasonable atheism, so to speak.

      May 19, 2010 at 12:03 pm |
    • Chris

      Cory Dupont: For the last time (I wish), let me explain this as simply as I can: It is not that atheists "don't believe in God", it is that we believe there is no God. See the difference? We BELIEVE something, just as you do. That is our religion, and it is afforded the same legal protection as your religion. Clearly, though, the reality is that American society and government are heavily biased toward Protestantism, so I would like very much if all you "oppressed" Protestants would get a clue.

      May 19, 2010 at 12:21 pm |
    • Biff

      because you don't have to pander to atheists/agnostics.

      May 19, 2010 at 1:25 pm |
    • Denny P

      Paolo says: Haha, ERV, there is no morality without religion.

      This has been disproven by sociologists time and time again. Morality evolves in any society because society benefits from it. Civilization would not have occured had early humans killed each other indiscrimiately.

      May 19, 2010 at 2:17 pm |
    • BrianCNN

      Because they're irrelevant.

      May 23, 2010 at 10:48 am |
  19. American4EVR

    Why exactly is CNN even trumpeting this as news? I mean, really. CNN really makes it their business to incite people into irrelevant hatred topics. Good job CNN.

    May 19, 2010 at 10:30 am |
    • smc

      That's because most media outlets suck!

      May 19, 2010 at 10:44 am |
    • Chris

      How is CNN inciting "people into irrelevant hatred topics"???

      Are you reading comprehension challenged???

      May 19, 2010 at 10:53 am |
    • Bobby

      Amen, you hit the nail right on the head! What the heck is, and why do we need a "Belief Blog"?

      May 19, 2010 at 11:01 am |
    • Jim

      "News" like this is trumpeted by CNN because its goal is not necessarily to spread the word on constructive, relevant topics. Oftentimes the goal is simply to entertain and get more viewers/page hits (to, attract more advertising revenue), and a good way to do that is to cover hot-button topics that appeal to the basest emotions of readers.

      May 19, 2010 at 11:23 am |
    • ChristianHumanist

      I have a different take on this issue: religious beliefs of the justices matter very much and the loss of the traditional Protestant perspective (separation of church and state), before it was blurred by evangelicals, is a very great loss that is not made up by the fuzzy math of 6 plus 3 equals 9. If the Supremes were made up of "typical" Catholics or Jews as described who have moved toward a generally Protestant perspective, maybe I would not feel as strongly as I do about what I see as an important problem that no one is talking about openly. Several of the Catholics on the Court are members of Opus Dei and are very conservative traditional Catholics who take church doctrine seriously and have said so publicly. I have not heard much from the Jews on the Court, and they may be sufficiently "protestantized" that we need not worry. But consider this: unlike Protestants, both Catholics and Jews have some allegiance to forces outside the US - the Vatican and Israel. The Court will be faced with questions regarding abortion, the sovereignty of the Vatican when lawsuits are brought against the Church, right to die and assisted suicide, with conflict of interest between US officials who are also dual cirtizens with Israel and the failure to distinguish between our nationalinterests vs the interests of Israel, etc., SO the balance of a neutral court with non-sectarian judges in issues which have religius overtones is quite important to me because I do not want to see the religious prejudices of judges interfering with judicial impartiality.

      May 19, 2010 at 11:34 am |
    • Colin in Florida

      CNN does not say this is news. It is an opinion piece in a blog,

      The Supreme Court should have a diverse mix of people. If you don't believe this, then you obviously believe Roosevelt was right when he attempted to increase the size of the court in 1937 so he could pack it with Justices who agreed with him!

      What we really need to do is to insure that the court has a regular turnover by making appointments for 20 years or until age (to pick a number) 75. This will help insure that the court stays more current with the population.

      And Mike, Science does have more answers than Religion.

      May 19, 2010 at 11:42 am |
    • meh

      @ ChristianHumanist....

      Are you kidding me???? While your comment appears to attempt to make a valid and educated comment – it is probably one of the most ignorant.

      Under your same flawed theory – why did the Protestant run Supreme Court remove all references to God in our courts, schools, etc. If your theory was correct – we would still having prayer in school. Are you kidding me with your logic??? This wasnt even worthy of a reply....but I would be interested who you explain the "Protestants" who founded our country under God, have also removed him from every part of our Government except the dollar bill, Pledge of Allegiance, etc. I am sure those are next now that those Roman Catholics are the majority.... sarcasm. Lets just pledge our Allegiance to Rome now and be done with it....... ignorant. sorry. narrow minded. sorry. ill informed.sorry = war. Ooh I know...lets join the original home country of Great Britian!!! All Hail the Queen...... sarcasm.........

      May 19, 2010 at 11:52 am |
    • umad

      ::Sees that this is under the BLOGS section, which is editorials. Realizes you are an idiot.::

      May 19, 2010 at 6:28 pm |
  20. Ken

    Well there goes the discussion about the separation of church and state.

    May 19, 2010 at 10:30 am |
    • Anette

      My thought exactly!

      May 19, 2010 at 10:36 am |
    • Srikanth

      And there begins another round deception by the devil. Is Sunday Law for behind...if you all know what I mean!!!??! For those that don't know what that law means...search google for "Sunday Law".

      May 19, 2010 at 10:41 am |
    • Goetia

      How many Muslims or Hindus? I mean really... what is the point of this article?

      May 19, 2010 at 10:45 am |
    • JK Smalley

      Exactly! Personal religious beliefs have nothing to do with our U.S. laws. We need to re-inforce the separation of Church and State. If we don't then how are we any different from how the Taliban runs Afganistan. CNN is being ridiculous for even thinking this is newsworthy. Stirring up the pot is hindering our country not helping.

      May 19, 2010 at 10:46 am |
    • Jeff Stein

      ...and how many Atheists? People who truly grasp reality and don't believe in fairy tales?

      May 19, 2010 at 10:49 am |
    • bill

      The only true way to achieve separation of church and state is to have a Supreme Court entirely of atheists. Seems fair to me.

      May 19, 2010 at 10:51 am |
    • neil

      Everywhere. Actually, Where is the conversation on Church. Nowhere, that being said I'm really happy about this court make up.

      May 19, 2010 at 10:52 am |
    • Dave

      The Constitution never called for 'separation' of church and state, but for 'non-endorsement' of church by the state. Each Justice's religious beliefs are part of what they bring to the position, and should be relevant to the discussion.

      May 19, 2010 at 10:52 am |
    • bill

      jeff stein said it's only the atheist's who don't believe in fairy tales...are you kinging me? My great ancestors used to be Nemo...if that's not a creation mythos then I don't know what is.

      May 19, 2010 at 10:53 am |
    • bill

      Only 22% of Americans are Catholic, yet they're almost 60% of the Supreme Court. And less than 3% of the population is Jewish, yet they're almost 30% of the Supreme Court. To put it bluntly... so f'd up!!!

      May 19, 2010 at 10:54 am |
    • Chris

      @Jeff Stein, why is YOUR WORLDVIEW inherently correct in its perception of reality and why is the Christian WORLDVIEW inherently wrong in its perception of reality?

      Oooooh, how I don't like fundamentalists such as yourself.

      May 19, 2010 at 10:54 am |
    • neil

      Also, Athieism should be classified as a Theism and be under the same restrictions. How would banning religious people from serving on the court be religious freedom? Weird.

      May 19, 2010 at 10:54 am |
    • Chris

      The separation of church and state was to prevent the state from establishing a state church and to prevent the meddling of the state in religion.

      May 19, 2010 at 10:56 am |
    • J.M. Pelland

      I wholeheartedly agree with your comment, Ken. It's my belief that we should be striving towards a religiously UN-affiliated America. Our forefathers created the Separation of Church and State for a reason. Article 6 of our constitution says there shall be no religious test required to qualify an individual for office. Why, then, do the people, the news, and more importantly, our Congress feel that religious belief is such an important piece of what makes a supreme court justice effective? I can't wait for the day when people start using religion as a guide to give meaning and structure to their lives and stop letting it rule our political framework.

      May 19, 2010 at 10:57 am |
    • Paul

      A diverse group will always do the job better. I agree with everyone there(so yes an agnostic, atheist, muslim all should be on the court). Though I could argue statistically the court should represent the ratio of society between views and religion....

      However, I grow tired of people who are atheist saying anyone who practices religion is "stupid" and all that good stuff. I was born and raised an atheist and eventually became Catholic on my own. As a chemical engineer for 11 years, who is married to a catholic physics teacher we are pretty sure we are not "stupid". One should never assume that only people of low status and thought practice religion. Some of the smartest people I know practice some form of religion as it atleast gives you hope in something in the world. I became a catholic because science can't explain everything, and every one should know that we keep dividing the atom, but eventually it will end at a single point that will never be able to be explained.....Anyways please keep an open mind and stop insulting religious people as if we lack a brain.

      May 19, 2010 at 11:02 am |
    • diogenes99

      Perhaps the next step toward diversity is to nominate an atheist. If no-one on the court can understand how tax-sponsored religious events, religious oaths, pledges and affirmations is an insult to non-believers, then perhaps we need someone on the court who does.

      May 19, 2010 at 11:03 am |
    • Michigan

      What's needed is justices that are strict about separation of church and state. A justice's religious views aren't important so long as they do this right. The attention to this issue indicates people don't trust that justices will refrain from proselytizing from the bench ( "The cross is not a religious symbol" ) so there is a call for balance. I would like to see an atheist or agnostic on the court; they do have moral values and I would trust them to handle separation of church and state properly and be unbiased when making such decisions.

      May 19, 2010 at 11:04 am |
    • Jefe

      The reply about athiests, "who truly grasp reality and don't believe in fairy tales" is funny, because it shows that clearly, the poster doesn't grasp reality. Anyone who believes spiritual beliefs don't have a very real effect on the person and on the world, needs to study some quantum physics.

      May 19, 2010 at 11:04 am |
    • Maria

      Exactly right! Why are we having this discussion anyways. We should not be concerned about the religious backgrounds of our judges, the law rules above any religious belief.

      May 19, 2010 at 11:10 am |
    • Yan

      Get over it all of you.

      May 19, 2010 at 11:11 am |
    • Sean

      Yes! Reinforce the separation of church and state!! Then why is Pelosi on the congressional pulpit preaching about how churches need to speak to their parishoners about supporting green policies?? Where's the uproar about this breach of the so called separation of church and state?

      May 19, 2010 at 11:13 am |
    • Deep

      Do we look at religion or qualification while selecting our justices?

      May 19, 2010 at 11:19 am |
    • Austin

      Thomas Jefferson was a deist, not a Christian.

      May 19, 2010 at 11:21 am |
    • Robert

      I think the current justices are not gonna let their faith affect their decisions. Day of Prayer was unconstitutional by a federal judge because it was government advertising religion just as Prayer at school was found unconstitutional when advocated by admins or teachers. I don't think the justices are aimed to change such precedence. Its fine and dandy for people to recognize the day in their communities and celebrate it- but we should expect government institutions to dedicate time advertising it as they have.

      May 19, 2010 at 11:23 am |
    • Qaz

      What's wrong with your maths? is it 6+3=9 or 6+3=0? re-read the headlines...

      May 19, 2010 at 11:23 am |
    • CitygirlDC


      May 19, 2010 at 11:30 am |
    • Steven

      why should this even matter. There is a saparation of church and state so thye point is moot. Just for fun I'd like to see a Wiccan or an athiest be appointed. That would shake up middle America

      May 19, 2010 at 11:32 am |
    • Scandinavian

      Where are the Atheists in all this?
      That is the group that is constantly under-represented in high office.

      May 19, 2010 at 11:34 am |
    • Rich D

      Not really. All the Constitution says about religion is "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...."

      The words "separation of church and state" do not appear in the Constitution, they are from a letter from Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists in which he assured them that the free and open practice of fath would never be trampled by the Federal government.

      Now, personally, I'm an atheist. But that fact doesn't mean I'm going to deny the reality of the Constitution and our History. The founders' religious beliefs were as diverse as the public's is today.

      May 19, 2010 at 11:37 am |
    • IEK

      @bill – "My great ancestors used to be Nemo...if that's not a creation mythos then I don't know what is." – Yeah, if only it didn't have all that pesky evidence.

      May 19, 2010 at 11:37 am |
    • chuck

      Wow. Catholics and Jews are not that far apart. What is the difference in a Catholic and a Jew who thinks Jesus is the messiah? So the math should be 6C +3J = 9 people. Why not put a satin worshiper in there if you want equal representation. Give me a brake. They are 9 people with morals. Enough said.

      May 19, 2010 at 11:39 am |
    • Doug

      I doubt very seriously that the intellectuals on the Supreme Court, who are highly educated and among the best legal minds in the country, will allow their religious convictions (or lack thereof) sway them in a decision. There is no evidence of any improper influence of religion in their decisions with the present Court. As highly skilled jurists and legal scholars, the Justices know fully well to rule as secularists on the disputes that come before them. The more relevant criticism of the make-up of the Court from this lawyer is the abject lack of trial experience as litigators among the Justices (with a few exceptions). Being a federal judge after an academic career does not necessarily yield the most informed, realistic view of regular people and their multitudinous legal problems and disputes. Moreover, there are many great legal minds throughout the United States who did not attend Harvard, Yale or Stanford. The diversity we need on the Supreme Court is the diversity of professional background and experience as practicing lawyers.

      May 19, 2010 at 11:39 am |
    • sam

      If it has to be some religion it is good that it is Protestantism. Historically, that religion has always had less impetus to impose itself on others–it is far more freedo-based.

      May 19, 2010 at 11:41 am |
    • Remy

      The only true seperation of church and state is to remove all people who believe in anything from any position of power. That idea is stupidity at its finest.

      May 19, 2010 at 11:43 am |
    • TED

      "Why not an agnostic? An evangelical? A Muslim?"


      May 19, 2010 at 11:46 am |
    • kryg@yahoo.com

      6 Catholics + 3 Jews = 9 highly educated non-Protestants in every 12 Americans perhaps.

      May 19, 2010 at 11:50 am |
    • Alexander

      I don't get it. How is religious, racial or cultural diversity an important factor for our highest court? Shouldn't it only matter that the Judge be well qualified in understanding and interpreting the Constitution?

      May 19, 2010 at 11:50 am |
    • Brad

      Interesting. Not the topic, but moreso the fact that someone who is a supposed 'expert' on religion is so obviously unaware of anything to do with religion. First of all, faith regardless of whether it is stated or not by the individual will guide their decisions and thoughts whether consciously or unconsciously. There is the issue of putting way too much focus today on affiliation rather than who the person really is in regards to religion. Therefore for anyone to think that there can ever truely believe there can be a 100% separtation of Church and State is 100% wrong. It would be like telling the person to put aside all values and lessons they had learned in life from their mother aside when they enter any professional life. You can't. It's a part of who that person is. The problem with the religious argument in politics is the fact that the religious like to bring it up, but are horrible at arguing the points when the debate begins.

      May 19, 2010 at 11:56 am |
    • Danish

      Why there are no Muslims even though they are educated and have a huge population. Is there some sort of discrimination being done when only Jews or Chrisitans are selected as Judges.

      May 19, 2010 at 11:58 am |
    • abar

      I think that the point of recognizing the faith backgrounds of supreme court justices is of great importance. It is impossible for one to fully separate their religious leanings from political, social, and other leanings (I compare this to the possibility of one being able to separate mind/body/soul-spirit). Also, I think that one needs to consider the hermeneutic implications of this. The law, such as the US constitution, is a document that was meant to change and adapt as the US changes and grows. What this means is that a supreme court justice (or any judge, politician, president) must interpret the document. And as I said before, since it is nearly impossible to separate religious beliefs from other areas in one's life, the religious leanings of the court are of great importance.

      May 19, 2010 at 12:12 pm |
    • AngryWookie

      "bill – The only true way to achieve separation of church and state is to have a Supreme Court entirely of atheists. Seems fair to me."

      The abuse and disrespect the "atheists" spew forth toward anybody of any faith on this site is exactly why that will never and should never happen.

      Practice what you attempt to preach but fail miserably with your weak arguments and scientifically unsound gibberish.

      May 19, 2010 at 12:20 pm |
    • danno

      And where is the Muslim, atheist, & Hindu ?

      May 19, 2010 at 12:20 pm |
    • cgiburd

      Offensive as this article is to Catholics,Jews and especially Protestants, I wonder what the author really knows about any religious tradition??? I firmly support the separation of church and state and expect our "judges" to act in the service of GOOD not GOD - that extra "O" is the game changer.

      May 19, 2010 at 12:21 pm |
    • Ratnok, Denver, CO

      Church and state were never separate. Take a look at the dollar bill in your pocket. "In God We Trust"

      May 19, 2010 at 12:23 pm |
    • IEK

      @Brad – Seperation of church and state doesn't have to do with the thought processes or reasonings of our elected officials. If they support position X because their religion says they should, so be it. Seperation of church and state has to do with the laws that are actually passed. Laws which favor a religion or belief, or laws which attempt to impose the morality of a single religion upon everyone are a big no-no. But clearly you aren't going to get individual Congressmen, Senators, Judges, or the President to simply stop making decisions based on their religious views. And in a representative democracy, why would we expect them to? People vote based on their religious views.

      May 19, 2010 at 12:26 pm |
    • bandgeek1

      We are different from the taliban and other countries governed by religious rule, you dolts, because, while the people who govern us and shape our laws may or may not hold views shaped by their religious training, they don't usually try to directly impose those views on the general public.

      May 19, 2010 at 12:27 pm |
    • Jimmy

      @Bill- ENforcing an atheists-only rule would not help the separation of Church and State. IF you read the actual 1st amendment, you see that it prevents Congress from preventing free exercise of religion or creating a state religion. If the Supreme Court is limited to only atheists, then you have created a State religion.

      May 19, 2010 at 12:27 pm |
    • rwagner78

      Only if they determine that all things must be Catholic or Jewish.

      May 19, 2010 at 12:30 pm |
    • Tom

      I wouldn't worry about any of it. Read the book, it was published in 1611. KING JAMES Version, it says it all gonna burn up anyway. Athiests, they're still digging for that turtle wing wings. Supposedly birds came from reptiles....

      May 19, 2010 at 12:33 pm |
    • Paul

      Srikanth, Lex Luthor or the Joker make a much better villain than the Devil.

      May 19, 2010 at 12:37 pm |
    • Mike Hott

      See how fast the rabid Christians in this country embrace Separation of Church and State when we have 9 MUSLIMS on the Supreme Court!!

      May 19, 2010 at 12:37 pm |
    • Wes

      Why do people bring up the separation of church and state in this topic? I'm all for separation but it doesn't mean people can't practice a personal faith... it means the state doesn't doesn't mesh the two (ala, the mother country). Let people practice their own faith ... let people NOT practice faith ... but let's stop telling people what they should do or don't do.

      May 19, 2010 at 12:38 pm |
    • Mododavid

      The founding fathers were agnostics – believing in a diety (clockwork god.) We need to go back to that.

      May 19, 2010 at 12:40 pm |
    • Traytr

      There was never really any seperation of church and state, it was only said there was to make us think that there is, our pledge of allegiance has the phrase "One Nation Under God," that does not bring seperation of church and state to mind.

      May 19, 2010 at 12:40 pm |
    • TG

      Of all of the silly, off the cuff, lame analyses of religion in the US, this article takes the discourse to a new low.

      May 19, 2010 at 12:49 pm |
    • janetlaw

      Bingo – how many unitarians? how many atheists? C'mon....I THINK there is still seperation of church (though its been incredibly erroded) – and, really, WHO CARES

      May 19, 2010 at 12:50 pm |
    • John Richardson

      Quantum physics doesn't validate biblical fairy tales. Some say that there are non-trivial confirmations of some EASTERN, emphatically NON-BIBLICAL religious thought in certain interpretations of quantum physics, but I don't see the Heisenberg uncertainty in Hindu or Buddhists texts and I personally suspect that there is a LOT of rather silly retro-fitting going on by the Wu Li masters crowd. (Indeed, I suspect the The Dancing Wu Li Masters is as poor an exegesis of eastern religious thought as it is of western science, which is saying something.) But if you religious quote folk need the more sophisticated amongst us to throw you a bone, how about mandating: 3 atheists, 3 agnostics and 3 buddhists

      May 19, 2010 at 12:57 pm |
    • cranky

      The separation of Church and State is NOT about individual's personal views but about the State influencing institutional religion and institutional religion influencing the State. You might think that I've just made your point for you. I haven't. In the United States we do not have a State religion nor can the State tell Jews, Protestants, Catholics, or Muslims how to practice their faith. Problems between Church/Synagog/Mosque and State arise when children have to say prayers in State schools. That is a problem. It is not a problem that there are people of faith on the Supreme Court.

      May 19, 2010 at 1:01 pm |
    • Huh?

      To those who say only an atheist could do an impartial job – I have yet to meet an atheist that isn't completely negative towards all religion and those who practice it. All atheists I've met are combative and would definitely not be impartial should a religious issue come up – they'll always agree with whatever side is against the religion, no matter the arguments or laws...

      May 19, 2010 at 1:07 pm |
    • Tony

      We need a freakin athiest on the court. All these crazy religious nuts are TOO much!

      May 19, 2010 at 1:08 pm |
    • Cristi

      I don't think the Supreme Court Justices have a problem with separation of church and state, I think it's the people. Let's get over it and let them do their job!

      May 19, 2010 at 1:09 pm |
    • Leslie


      That's exactly what I was going to say before I even read the comments!! Regardless of religious beliefs the law should come first. I very much appreciate your thought.

      May 19, 2010 at 1:13 pm |
    • Mikeh

      lol at the "seperation of chruch and state". This is a 5th century myth, the church requested it so as to remove any chance of being ruled by the state. It has simply become a business arrangment, to suggest that anyone can keep their intimate personal beliefs (religious view) seperate from their "real lives" (running of the state) is naive at best.

      May 19, 2010 at 1:16 pm |
    • Steven P

      Jeff Stein wrote: "...and how many Atheists? People who truly grasp reality and don't believe in fairy tales?"

      Being an atheist/agnostic myself, I know plenty of atheists who can't grasp "reality".

      May 19, 2010 at 2:03 pm |
    • MarylandBill

      I love these religion in Government debates, it usually shows how both sides live in fantasy land. For the record, the Founding Fathers were a mix of Protestants, Deists and even a few Catholics.

      Also for the record... 6 out of 9 is more than 60%, not almost 60% and Agnosticism is not the same thing as Deism.

      May 20, 2010 at 12:18 am |
    • bth

      The point of this article is to keep dividing people anyway they can. This how satan wins and man loses.

      May 20, 2010 at 7:07 am |
    • Richard Wall

      Separation of church and state (when written into the constitution) ONLY means there will be no state religion nor a religion which the government will financially support. This was a backlash against the BRITISH who do have a state religion and which is supported by tax dollars.

      It does NOT mean that government can't mention religion or make decision on the basis of any faith. It simply doesn't mean what most people think!

      May 20, 2010 at 8:25 am |
    • Matt

      I think it's funny how everyone uses the term "Separation of Church and State" when it isn't even in the Constitution. The amendment actually reads that Congress shouldn't make any law respecting the "establishment" of religion – to be interpreted as, the government shouldn't make a national religion, or promote one over the other. This has nothing to do with what the Justices or anyone else for that matter believes. Before speaking, I think some should go back and read the Constitution. The "Separation of Church and State" is not what everyone thinks it is...

      May 21, 2010 at 10:11 am |
    • jimsteramos

      Denialists replace the open-minded skepticism of science with the inflexible certainty of ideological commitment. – Michael Specter

      May 21, 2010 at 12:04 pm |
    • esker

      The poster of this was clearly saying that religious diversity is important If you think 9 aetheists or simply deists or agnostics could govern law better then have it. Instead you are saying separation of church and state, which while the post is centered around the question doesn't state that said justices actually create law based on their personal religious affiliations. Most people in the U.S. still subscribe to some religion. Therefore any person elected to office must parse words, or we should say is biased. The question is whether or not they actually truly believe those words. By stating Protestanized this means that the members are influenced by a protest against the subscription to religion as it is preached by fundamentalists. Therefore such people are generally inclined to realize that there is more than just me on the bench, I'm ruling for the entire populace.

      Your separation of church and state issue is valid, but it's also rampant with the idea that the very justices in question don't adhere to the same principles. Who are you to say so? You haven't provided any context.

      May 21, 2010 at 9:50 pm |
    • JDonald

      Kagan may be very well credentialled for the Supreme Court job, but so are dozens of others who represent the Protestant viewpoint. When did proportional representation become a bad word?

      May 24, 2010 at 7:09 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.