By Michael Ruffin
I confess that until I read this article I had no idea what the religious makeup of the Supreme Court of the United States was. But now I find that we are faced, given the retirement of Justice John Paul Stevens, with the possibility that there will be no Protestant Supreme Court justices.
Six of the current justices are Roman Catholic, two are Jewish, and Justice Stevens is a Protestant, although my extensive research (six minutes on the Internet) has failed to uncover what kind of Protestant he is (although the smart money would be on Episcopalian, Presbyterian or Lutheran).
While I really don’t believe that there should be a religious test for a Supreme Court justice any more than there should be one for an elected official (which is constitutionally prohibited) I still want to present my case for why the next Supreme Court justice should not only be a Protestant but should be that most Protestant of Protestants — a Baptist.
There are all kinds of Baptists, everything from American Baptists to Southern Baptists to independent Baptists to Two-Seed-in-the-Spirit Predestinarian Baptists. In the Southern Baptist tradition out of which I come, though, we have effectively reduced our categories to two: (1) conservative Baptists (or, as the moderates call them, “fundamentalists,” and, in their less kind moments, “fanatics”) and (2) moderate Baptists (or, as the conservatives call them, “liberals,” and, in their less kind moments, “lost”).
So, in true Baptist fashion, I will use my terms as I choose to define them in offering, as a public service, the following three “Top Three” lists.
Top 3 Reasons that any Baptist Should be the Next Supreme Court Justice:
3. A Baptist who has navigated the wars over “traditional” versus “contemporary” worship styles would find most issues with which the court deals to be a piece of cake.
2. A Baptist, especially one who attended Southern Baptist Convention meetings from 1979-1990 and who thus got used to going from being called every name in the book one minute and then singing “There’s a Sweet, Sweet Spirit in this Place” the next should have no problem making nice even in the midst of the most bitter ideological debates with other justices.
And the No. 1 reason that any Baptist should be the next Supreme Court justice?
1. Post-hearing covered-dish suppers!
Top 3 Reasons that a Fundamentalist Baptist Should be the Next Supreme Court Justice:
3. All the “gray areas” in the law would instantly disappear.
2. If you want your new Supreme Court justice to place an emphasis on “strict constructionism” and “authorial intent” when it comes to the Constitution you can hardly do better than someone who has practiced on the Bible.
And the No. 1 reason that a Fundamentalist Baptist should be the next Supreme Court justice?
1. “Opinions” would be replaced with “God said it, I believe it, that settles it” statements.
Top 3 Reasons that a Moderate Baptist Should be the Next Supreme Court Justice:
3. Would view separation between church and state as a constitutional principle rather than as the figment of infidels’ imaginations.
2. Has a sense of history that fosters a respect for the marginalized and oppressed.
And the No. 1 reason that a Moderate Baptist should be the next Supreme Court Justice?
1. Would always seek the middle ground — even if there isn’t any.
I rest my case.