"Meet the Press" featured a debate between Professor Douglas Kmiec and former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo concerning whether Supreme Court nominees should be questioned about their religious beliefs.
Perceptive viewers of the debate could see that the real issue wasn't so much the nominees' religious beliefs but the proper role of the courts under the Constitution.
But first, some context. The reason Tim Russert was even hosting such a debate is that a story has been circulating -- based on a column by law professor Jonathan Turley -- that Judge Roberts told Sen. Durbin he would have to recuse himself in cases where the Constitution conflicted with his Catholic faith.
I don't believe Roberts made such a statement, though I don't doubt Durbin told Turley he did. In any event, the White House has assured us that if confirmed, Roberts would not allow his faith to conflict with his sworn allegiance to the Constitution.
Such assurance has not satisfied those zealots devoted to purging Christianity from the public square. Some of them are so mindlessly committed to privatizing religion they don't even believe members of the legislative or executive branches should permit their religious beliefs to inform their policy views. But the idea that a faithful Catholic Supreme Court justice might defer to the pope ahead of the Constitution drives them mad.
In fairness, though, I have to agree -- as does Justice Antonin Scalia, by the way -- that a justice shouldn't let his faith interfere with his duty to uphold the Constitution. My belief is grounded in my respect for the Constitution and the limited role the judiciary is assigned under it: interpreting, not making, law
The Left's fears over Roberts' Catholic faith, on the other hand, proceed not from their reverence for the Constitution, but chiefly from their violent objection to a particular article of the Catholic faith: that abortion is an egregious sin.
If they believed Roberts were a pro-abortionist, they wouldn't demand his allegiance to the Constitution, as written, because Roe v. Wade's judicial sanctioning of abortion would not have been possible by a Court remotely deferential to the Constitution. Indeed, the Left's loyalty isn't to the Constitution, but to certain policies that have been grafted into it by liberal activist judges who, in the process, have exhibited an abiding disrespect for the document.
If everyone shared the strict constructionists' judicial philosophy, concerns over how a judge's faith might influence his decisions would be moot, because strict constructionists don't make policy.