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No Protestant need apply?

Almost 40 years ago, Peter Schrag wrote a book called "Decline of the WASP."  Little did he know. Belatedly, pundits are speculating about the possibility that, once Justice John Paul Stevens is replaced, the Supreme Court will be not only WASPless but Protestant-free. (All WASPs are Protestants, but not all Protestants are WASPs.)

Should we care if President Obama replaces Stevens with the court's third Jew or seventh Catholic (or first Muslim, though don't bet on it)?

I don't think so, for two reasons -- neither of them rooted in a naive insistence that the demographics of the court are totally irrelevant.

First, diversity on the court is important for symbolic reasons, as a way of recognizing marginalized groups (the reason for "Catholic" and "Jewish" seats in the past). But Protestants, despite the decline predicted by Schrag, are not marginalized. The president is a Protestant. So, reportedly, are several captains of industry. Little Protestant kids don't need to see a co-religionist on the court to feel validated as Americans.

The second argument for diversity, and not just on the Supreme Court, is that it ensures that a variety of viewpoints will be heard. I think this makes sense, to a point, with gender  and racial diversity. Religious diversity? Not so much, especially in an era in which Protestant-Catholic-Jewish differences are less important than divisions in the culture wars that transcend denominational lines.

Liberal Catholics, for example, have more in common on many issues with liberal Protestants than they do with conservative Catholics. (In the context of the Supreme Court, it's easy to forget that there are liberal Catholics -- because five of the six RCs were appointed by Republican presidents.)

So don't sweat the Protestant issue, President Obama. If you really want to play the diversity card, pick a justice  -- Catholic, Protestant or Jew -- who didn't attend an Ivy League school.

--Michael McGough


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Enough tribalism! Just put appoint the best person.

The people who now whine that there won't be any WASP's are the same that thought an all male court was fine, and all white court was fine, and an all Anglo-Saxon or an all northern European court was fine. One Catholic seat was enough, one female seat was enough. These people just don't know their place anymore!

How quick the male establishment is to whine. When it appears that girls are doing better than boys in school, suddenly it isn't "fair!" Suddenly we have a "problem" and must limit the girls so they don't outnumber the boys in college. It used to be just fine to limit the girls to 0%.

How the mighty have fallen. The posibility that white male ivy-league scions from old money might now rule, causes heart palpatations. And Muffy, what can we do about the servants these days? Good help is so hard to find. Sigh.

OC Dodger fan

May I suggest Dallin Oaks, a University of Chicago Law School Grad. A former University President. A couple years ago he was on the short list as a SCJ. If you want to play the diversity card, Choose a non-Catholic, non-Protestant and, non-Jew. He is a Mormon and is currently in a senior executive level Mormon leadership position. He has no skeletons in his closet. Is America ready for such a choice? America doesn't doesn't seem bothered by Senator Harry Reid's Religious Affliation.

My only criticism that I can confirm is I never saw him smile to himself all the times I saw him walking from the President's House to his office in the Adminsitration Building in the 1970s. Maybe he was morphing from Family man (had a big Family) to University President during that Five Minute walk each day.



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The Opinion L.A. blog is the work of Los Angeles Times Editorial Board membersNicholas Goldberg, Robert Greene, Carla Hall, Jon Healey, Sandra Hernandez, Karin Klein, Michael McGough, Jim Newton and Dan Turner. Columnists Patt Morrison and Doyle McManus also write for the blog, as do Letters editor Paul Thornton, copy chief Paul Whitefield and senior web producer Alexandra Le Tellier.

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