Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens announced this week that he would retire as soon as the Court rises from its current session in late June. The prognosticators immediately got to work, creating a short-list of three. (That was a few days ago. Now the Stevens memorializers are having their say.)
Of those three, notably two are Jewish and one Protestant. It's notable because Stevens is the lone Protestant in the current court. (David Souter, the last Episcopalian to serve, retired in 2009. And according to NPR, Episcopalians swing well above their weight on the Court -- 35 in all from its inception, and more than any other denomination or religion.)
As far as Washington is concerned, this is something of a radioactive topic - one part of a complicated conversation that tends to reflect ideology and political persuasion as much as plain-old demography (gender/ethnicity/race). Still, says professor Lee Epstein of Northwestern's law school,
These days ... we’ve moved to other sources of diversity.
It's a point (a rather seismic one) that led religion researcher Diana Butler Bass on Friday to tweet this plea:
Dear Mr. President: A Protestant, please. Just 1. Lots of Prots are lawyers & the 51% of us who are Prots would really appreciate it.
So what do you think? How important is the religious makeup of the Court? Is it merely a matter of "nice-to-have," or do Protestants lend something to legal discernment that can't be duplicated by any other combination of life experience or demography? Especially for Episcopalians: Is Protestant representation on the Court the mere continuation of historic wish-fulfillment, or is there something about Anglicanism that the Court needs in this hour? If so, what is it?