Freedman-2014-Among Justices, Considering a Divide Not of Gender or Politics, but of Beliefs

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On Religion During its last term, the Supreme Court narrowly decided two cases bearing extensively on the separation of church and state. Both of them broke along familiar 5-4 lines, and both of them implicitly raised a question hardly anyone has asked about a court that is entirely composed, for the first time in American history, of Roman Catholic and Jewish justices. In the first of the cases, Greece v. Galloway, the court ruled to allow public prayer at a government meeting. In the other, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, the court said that a corporation closely held by a religious family should not have to offer several forms of contraception that it opposed to its female employees, as required by the Affordable Care Act. To the degree that these decisions, especially Hobby Lobby, have been parsed and picked over, the analysis has gone along the lines of politics (conservative majority against liberal minority) or gender (male majority against mostly female minority). Yet it is at least as compelling to consider the Catholic-Jewish divide. In both cases, five of the court’s six Catholic justices — Samuel A. Alito Jr., Anthony M. Kennedy, John G. Roberts Jr., Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas — formed the majority that espoused a larger place for religious practice in public life. All three Jewish justices — Stephen G. Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan — joined by one Catholic, Sonia Sotomayor, dissented on behalf of a wider, firmer separation. What attention has been paid to the denominational nature of the Among Justices, Considering a Divide Not of Gender or Politics, but o... -... 1 of 4 8/24/2014 2:49 PM
decisions has too often echoed with America’s sordid history of anti-Catholic bigotry, the presumption that Catholic public servants take their orders from the Vatican. A recent advertisement in The New York Times by the Freedom

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