t was SO hard to focus on the Senate hearings on Brett Kavanaugh‘s Supreme Court nomination. Distracting issues popped up daily; the first day, excerpts from Bob Woodward’s new book, then Kavanaugh’s cowardly refusal to shake the hand of a man whose daughter was slain in a school shooting; the second day, release of a devastating NYT op-ed from an ostensible “senior” official in the White House promising that he and associates were hard at work making sure Trump does not detonate our democracy. That overwhelmed everything.
And this doesn’t begin to consider so many issues where Kavanaugh may be the deciding vote on the court. Would he agree to subpoena or prosecute the president? Would he dismantle Roe v. Wade? Would he further gut citizens’ access to health care? Continue to promote the agenda of the NRA? Would he sanctify the formidable and filthy mountain of dollars from right wing groups that alone props up the GOP?
So many issues.
But there’s one more big threat for me.
Kavanaugh predictably (and logically) ducked all difficult questions in a beauty contest that he was certain to win. Except for one. He was happy to expound on his views about religion and government. He seems dead set on not only ushering in religion to public schools…but also diverting your tax money to whatever religious sects he and his brethren decide are appropriate. You can find details here.
n 1960, John F. Kennedy barely became president despite allegations that he would defer (because of his religion) to the will of the Catholic church rather than the Constitution. He said he would not--and that was that. (Historians still discuss the irony that the deciding votes in that election were not reported until the early morning hours, and those from Illinois--a Democratic political dynasty controlled by Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley. Maybe those deciding votes were real; maybe they were invented. In any case, without question Daley was a devout Catholic.)
So should religion, in Kavanaugh’s case, be a non-issue as well? Is he capable of deciding what he truly believes is “right”? I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and allow that he probably will. And he promised during the hearings that his religion would have “no relevance” to his judicial conduct.
But that doesn’t answer the larger question—how does he determine what’s right? He is a very devout and active Catholic himself, which raises those same kinds of issues Kennedy faced. But John Kennedy wasn't determining law. For example, there is no provision in the Constitution that deals in any way with abortion. In that absence, will Kavanaugh be guided by the contemporary guidance of his Catholic church? If not…why not?
Here’s the problem. Kavanaugh will be the sixth Catholic on the high court (a seventh, Neil Gorsuch, was raised Catholic but currently attends an Episcopalian church). The Catholic church has persistently condoned pedophilia rings among its priests. By this alone, the morality of the entire church is compromised.
The judicial activism of Kavanaugh’s idol, Anton Scalia, was entirely informed by his interpretation of Catholic dogma...for better or worse. The fact is, at minimum two thirds of our highest court kneel at the altar of child molestation.
Now, you may say, isn't that going too far? Painting all Catholics with the same brush? Of course it is. Progressive voices in the church are questioning how conservative Catholics on the court can profess to "protect life" so rigorously before birth...and then turn away as actual living children are denied health care...a fair path to citizenship...or are torn from their parents' arms while still toddlers. And that doesn't begin to consider all the young altar boys.
When observers fret about the “balance” of the court, it’s always about “left or right.” But a higher principle is at stake. The nation needs balance on the court that assures a voice for the full array of religious beliefs: all denominations--and particularly non-believers. This is the diversity that few are willing to demand, or even mention.
Yes, Kavanaugh is a tool. In the end, he will do what his misguided values tell him to. And thus, he will be the decisive hammer that destroys many rights that Americans hold dear. But nothing will be hammered faster and more decisively than the wall between church and state.
If you want a Christian America, just wait--you won’t even need to pray.
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