Two observations about retiring Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens are about to become established fact by sheer repetition. The first -- that Stevens is the last Protestant on the court -- is not true in any meaningful sense. The second -- that Stevens didn't move left, the court moved right -- is madness.
While it's true that there are no other Protestants on the court -- now composed of six Catholics and two Jews, making the Supreme Court only slightly less diverse than cable news hosts, 75 percent of whom are Catholic or Jewish, but also include a Scientologist, a Mormon and a gay -- it's difficult to believe Stevens is any kind of Protestant.
Stevens is more like a pre-road to Damascus Saul. Or maybe the late Justice William Brennan.
It has been said that when asked during his confirmation hearings if he would follow his Catholicism or the Constitution, Brennan should have answered: "Neither." (Only one senator voted against that cheap leprechaun. Guess who!... That's right: Joe McCarthy.)
Stevens' overall career-average may be less ridiculous than Brennan's, but in one respect, Stevens was a standout: He was the most fanatically anti-religious justice in modern times.
In the 1989 abortion case, Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, for example, Stevens argued that a state law that defined life as beginning at conception violated the First Amendment by -- yes, establishing a religion. The abortion law, he said, gave "a theological answer to the question of when life begins." (You've all heard of the First Church of When Life Begins, United, haven't you?)
Fortunately, Stevens didn't read far enough to see that the Bible also condemns murder generally, or he might have voted to strike down all laws against murder, too.
In the 2002 school voucher case, Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, Stevens argued that an Ohio program giving poor parents tuition aid to send their children to schools of their choosing also violated the establishment clause. Stevens admitted that the public school system in question was in "crisis" and also that the new schools were freely chosen by the parents.
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