The Catholic Court Appeal

Why So Many Catholic Justices on the Supreme Court? Why Now?

by Robert F. Cochran, Jr.

The Supreme Court has been dominated since the founding of our country by mainline Protestants, but with Samuel Alito joining Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, and John Roberts, five of the nine justices are now Catholics. All five have been appointed in the last 20 years. In the previous 200 years, only seven Catholics have served on the Court.

There may be political explanations for the attractiveness of Catholic justices, but I think three Catholic doctrines—natural law, subsidiarity, and religious freedom—help to explain why a majority of the justices are now Catholic. My argument . . .

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Robert F. Cochran, Jr. is the Louis D. Brandeis Professor of Law and Director of the Institute on Law, Religion, and Ethics at Pepperdine University of Law. He is the co-editor, with Michael McConnell and Angela Carmella, of Christian Perspectives on Legal Thought (Yale University Press, 2001). He, his wife Denise, and their three children are Evangelical Christians.

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