Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The faith of John Roberts

Law professor Jonathan Turley relates an encounter between Judge Roberts and Senator Durbin:
Roberts was asked by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) what he would do if the law required a ruling that his church considers immoral. Roberts is a devout Catholic and is married to an ardent pro-life activist. The Catholic Church considers abortion to be a sin, and various church leaders have stated that government officials supporting abortion should be denied religious rites such as communion. (Pope Benedict XVI is often cited as holding this strict view of the merging of a person's faith and public duties).

Renowned for his unflappable style in oral argument, Roberts appeared nonplused and, according to sources in the meeting, answered after a long pause that he would probably have to recuse himself.
Turley disapproves of Roberts's response. Turley says that Roberts should either accept his oath to uphold the law or resign. I agree, and as Turley points out, Scalia has said similar things. However, it should be pointed out that Roberts was speaking informally and off the record. Also, the terms of the hypothetical are somewhat extreme -- nothing in the text of the Constitution or subsequent amendments are contrary to Catholic doctrine. A Catholic jurist is bound to truthfully read the civil law as a matter of upholding a sacred oath. I'm somewhat disappointed that Roberts wasn't a little quicker on his feet here.
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