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Taking the Supreme Court on Faith

We wrote here earlier this week about the Catholic connection -- University of Chicago law professor Geoffrey R. Stone's post at the American Constitution Society's ACSBlog in which he suggests that religious affiliation may be the key to explaining last week's Supreme Court decision in Gonzales v. Carhart, upholding a federal law prohibiting so-called partial birth abortions. Since then, both a colleague and a former student of Stone have taken him to task for the post.

First came visiting Chicago law professor Richard Garnett, who is also a senior fellow with the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University and chair-elect of the Law and Religion Section of the American Association of Law Schools. In a post at the law school's The Faculty Blog, Garnett said that Stone missed the mark in drawing the distinction between religious belief and morality.

"[I]t is not clear why the claim 'human fetuses are moral subjects and this fact constrains what should be done with and to them' is any more 'religious', or any less 'moral', than the claim 'all human beings are moral equals, regardless of race, and should be treated as such in law.' What's more, even if it were true that the former claim is 'religious' (certainly, for many, it is religiously motivated or grounded), it does not violate -- indeed, I do not think it even implicates -- the 'separation of church and state' that our Constitution is thought to require."

Garnett's critique was followed by that of former Chicago law student Jan Crawford Greenburg, legal correspondent for ABC News, who, in a single post, pairs Geoffrey Stone with Rosie O'Donnell and blasts them both for linking justices' Catholicism to their jurisprudence.

"That’s not how they taught First Amendment law when I was at the University of Chicago. Nor did they tell us to jump to baseless conclusions without any evidence -- such as suggesting religion drove those justices. Or that different religious views influenced the protestant and Jewish justices to vote against the law.

"Why not speculate that the five justices in the majority happen to like baseball -- and therefore are more inclined to appreciate rules? That's no less relevant or 'telling,' as Stone put it, than their religious views."

So does faith influence the Supreme Court? And if so, should we nonetheless have faith in the outcome?

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on April 27, 2007 at 05:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)


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