Bench Memos

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Official Invocations of Religion


Suffering through the three or so hours of statements by Senate Judiciary Committee members this morning on the Roberts nomination, I began to have a new appreciation of the threat posed by public officials who invoke religious authority. Here were some of the statements I heard (from this full transcript):

From Senator Durbin: “The greatest compliment one can pay a judge is that he is wise, that in his work on the bench he’s shown the wisdom of Solomon. In the Scriptures, Solomon was often described as the wisest man who ever lived. But in Chapter 3 of the First Book of Kings, we learn what Solomon wanted more than wisdom. It is written, In Gibeon, the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream at night, and God said, ‘Ask what you wish me to give you.’ Then Solomon said, ‘So give your servant an understanding heart to judge your people, to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of yours?’ . . . I will pray that John Roberts will prove, as chief justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, that he has not only a great legal mind but also an understanding heart.”

(Note to Senator Durbin: In case you missed the point of Solomon’s most famous demonstration of his wisdom, he was actually opposed to cutting up babies and recognized that a loving mother would not willingly cause the death of her own child.)

From Senator Feinstein: “And I hope and I pray that when he serves in that most important post, he will do so in a way that protects and preserves our nation’s fundamental strengths and some of our most important laws and protections for people.”

From Senator Biden: “God willing, Justice Roberts will serve for three decades or more.”


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