Church & State

A Protestant-Free Supreme Court?

If Elena Kagan is confirmed, the Supreme Court faces an unprecedented bench demographic: six Catholics, three Jews, and zero Protestant justices. Until fairly recently in American history, such a ratio would have been unimaginable. "It's an amazing irony, given how central Protestantism has been to American culture," Stephen Prothero, a religion scholar, told CNN. "For most of the 19th century, Protestants were trying to turn America into their own heaven on Earth, which included keeping Jews and Catholics from virtually all positions of power." Some experts say the decline of Protestant representation has to do with an absence of lawyer tradition in that group, while both Jewish and Catholic communities have pursued law degrees as part of their efforts to assimilate. "Evangelicals have put more effort into getting elected than in getting onto the bench," said Michael Lindsay, a religion expert at Rice University. About half of all Americans identify themselves as Protestant.