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Eleanor Smeal: The Supreme Court and the rebirth of anti-Catholicism?

By Marion Edwyn Harrison
web posted November 7, 2005

Eleanor SmealMs. Eleanor Smeal, President of an organization styling itself the Feminist Majority - "majority," by whose mathematics? - again manifests her anti-Catholicism and also subliminally (or at least subliminally by her standards) introduces an unprecedented representation test into the composition of the Supreme Court of the United States. Her anti-Catholicism is well known, including her 1987 arrest while outside the Vatican Embassy in Washington protesting a visitation of the late Pope John Paul II. What heretofore she has not disclosed is her proportional representation standard for Supreme Court Justices (hereafter, the "Smeal Standard").

Upon the seating of Judge Samuel Anthony Alito, Jr. the Supreme Court would have five Justices of the Roman Catholic persuasion, none chosen because of his religion and, in her words, " . . . the majority of the [Supreme] Court would be Roman Catholics, which would underrepresent other religions, not to mention nonbelievers . . ." The American public is not 56 per cent Roman Catholic but in the 20 - 25 per cent range (depending upon definition). Thus, the Smeal Standard would be violated.

Presumably, however, the Smeal Standard is inapplicable to Justices of the Jewish Faith - or at least not to those Jewish Justices appointed by Democratic Presidents. Two of nine Justices are Jewish but the Jewish population is not 23 per cent, indeed only about 1 per cent. That the five Catholics - as, for that matter, the two Jews - are accomplished and brilliant lawyers and jurists is inapplicable to the Smeal Standard.

The Smeal Standard, if one literally were to apply it, would require Presidents to nominate, and the Senate to confirm, only one Roman Catholic Justice. How the other eight would be delineated the Smeal Standard has yet to say. One can figure that among the eight there would need be an Evangelical, a nominal Protestant and a fallen-away (or nonpracticing) Roman Catholic because those are large groups. That would get us up to four. Who knows beyond that?

To indulge the numerical speculation is to spotlight the utter absurdity and viciousness of the Smeal Standard. Of course, the arithmetic would play both ways. Not only would Catholics be subject to discrimination but Jews even more so. Imagine any intellectual or artistic activity which limited its Jewish components to only about 1 per cent of the participants? (Some activities once had a "no Jew need apply" limitation. The Smeal Standard carried to its logical mathematical conclusion would come near re-establishing that anti-Semitic discrimination - except maybe it would exempt leftwing "nonbeliever" Jews).

It is a sad day when a leader of a large organization, however leftist the organization may be, advocates any kind of quota system. It also is a sad day upon which any such advocate manifests her contempt for the Constitution of the United States, Article VI of which unambiguously states that ". . . no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."

It also is a sad day when an individual or organization seeking a voice in the confirmation of a judicial nominee must resort, as the Feminist Majority [sic] Website does, to publicizing and criticizing a loving comment by the 90-year old mother of a nominee.

The outrageous and knee-jerk attacks already emanating from some leftist sources and a few way-out United States Senators reveal the weakness of the opposition. Judge Alito is so well qualified they cannot find objective, relevant and meaningful criticisms. Furthermore, many of them already are stunned that they could find no rational basis to oppose confirmation of the newly seated 17th Chief Justice of the United States. Whether stunned, desperate or both, they could try blending objectivity, rationality and relevance.

Upon a broader spectrum, let us hope that the overwhelming majority of individuals and organizations prone to discussion of the nomination of Judge Alito will address their remarks to his scholarship, his ability to interpret and apply the law and his objectivity. Let's leave religious bigotry, the unconstitutional religious test, his elderly mother and the patently absurd Smeal Standard out of it. Decency and objectivity require no less.

Marion Edwyn Harrison, Esq. is President of, and Counsel to, the Free Congress Foundation.

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