Evangelicals: MIA on Supreme Court

Thursday, March 17, 2016
John Stewart - Guest Columnist

John StewartBarack Obama gives lip service to the idea of "diversity" when it suits his agenda, but apparently limits diversity to those characteristics that advance his agenda. Unfortunately, the liberal notion of diversity fails to even consider people who "believe like America."

President Obama yesterday nominated Merrick Garland to replace legendary conservative Justice Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court. Garland, who may be more "centrist" than Obama's previous nominees for the High Court, has been a judge on the District of Columbia Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals since 1997, and chief judge of the Circuit since 2013.

Why would anyone oppose Judge Garland? First, no president has filled a Supreme Court vacancy during a presidential election year in 80 years – a debate that started only hours after Scalia's untimely passing. Thus, there is historical precedence to defer to the next president under the current circumstances.

In support of this precedent, one former United States senator was outspoken about the need to allow an incoming president to choose the nominee. Who is that former senator? Vice President Joe Biden.

SCOTUS nominee Merrick GarlandPerhaps more troubling about the president's choice of Judge Garland, however, is his diversity myopia. Barack Obama gives lip service to the idea of "diversity" when it suits his agenda, but apparently limits diversity to those characteristics that advance his agenda. In short, the president seems to equate diversity with skin color and gender.

This is consistent with "liberal think," which goes all the way back to Bill Clinton wanting a cabinet that "looks like America." Unfortunately, the liberal notion of diversity fails to even consider people who "believe like America."

I am reminded of my talk radio days in California back in the 1990s, when there was an opening on the California Supreme Court. The dean of Santa Clara University School of Law at the time, Gerald Uelmen, was a guest on my talk show.

Uelmen, who was also one of O.J. Simpson's defense attorneys in the famous "trial of the century" murder case in 1994-95, wrote an op-ed about the court vacancy. Uelmen argued that the governor (who makes the appointment) should use gender and ethnicity as the determinative criteria of selection, in order to achieve "diversity" on the court.

I asked Dean Uelmen why he limits diversity to ethnicity and gender, when to me, as an evangelical Christian, a person's faith is more important than skin color and gender. I told him that I – as an Anglo male – would identify more closely with a black, conservative, Christian female judge, than with a white, liberal, secular male judge. Since faith informs my values, I told him that I preferred someone who shared my faith as opposed to someone who looked like me, adding the suggestion that he, too, consider "religion" as a criterion for diversity.

Professor Uhlmen was momentarily silent, as if he'd never considered that diversity comes in many shapes. He finally responded by saying: "Yes, I'll have to think about that. That does make sense. That is a good point."

In the case of the U.S. Supreme Court, I personally don't care about the justices' gender or ethnicity. I care about their values that influence their decisions – and faith influences values. The current religious makeup of the Court is five Roman Catholics and three of the Jewish faith. Merrick Garland, if confirmed, would make four Jewish members on the Supreme Court.

I have no problem with qualified non-Protestants being on the Court, and consider the late Justice Scalia, a Roman Catholic, as a champion of both the Constitution and Judeo-Christian values. But on the issue of diversity – since Roman Catholics make up roughly 22 percent of the population of the United States, those of the Jewish faith around 2.2 percent and Protestants 46 percent – if one is truly interested in diversity, isn't there something missing on the High Court ... namely a Protestant justice?

Further, about 26 percent of Americans, like myself, are considered "evangelicals" – a percentage greater than the number of Catholics and Jews combined. While many in Hollywood decry the lack of black Oscar nominees, few point out that Hollywood is nearly scrubbed clean of evangelicals. The same thing is true of the U.S. Supreme Court – evangelicals are missing in action.

Thus, for liberals, "diversity" has myopically become a way to boost representation of select groups in government and media – but only for the "right kind" of groups.

If one is truly interested in diversity, it is high time to expand its application and appoint qualified evangelicals to our federal courts, especially the U.S. Supreme Court. Otherwise, "diversity" will remain a tool used to advance a progressive ideology based on outward appearance – in direct opposition to the God of the Bible who "does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7).

John Stewart is a lawyer, former law school professor, and radio personality. He is currently the executive director of Ratio Christi International, a campus apologetics alliance, and is an allied attorney with the Alliance Defending Freedom.

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