Caitlin Flanagan, staff writer at Atlantic Magazine, wrote an article entitled, “Will Democrats Fail the Amy Coney Barrett Test?” The article is sympathetic towards Judge Barrett but it includes a grating subtitle, taken from the text: “If the judge’s faith has put limits on her talent and ambition, there are few signs of it.”
What are the presumptions of such a phrase? How is it that such a line could slide down like Jello, rather than being excised from a self-consciously intellectual magazine, such as The Atlantic?
Is it a bad thing for a person to put limits on his or her talents and ambition? Is it possible to identify any person whose faith does not place limits on what they do and say? Is there such a thing as ideological neutrality? Is there such a thing as an ideology that is not built on faith? Is it possible for any human to think other than through faith?
No. No. No. No. No.
Perhaps I don’t really object to a Supreme Court nominee being examined on the basis of faith. Perhaps it’s good that we understand the faith limits of every Supreme Court Justice candidate. Candidates who believe in scientific materialism, for example, would have to explain how any decision they rendered would be limited by a belief that defines humans as meaningless biological accidents passing the time in purposeless society. They would have to explain whether they were interested in the pursuit of justice or whether “justice” is merely a biological construct that aids in the survival of the race.
Do people really want justices who make decisions strictly on the basis of legal precedent? To do so is to assume that prior legal decisions have been correct…or that their being correct is unimportant…or meaningless. But if this is what is desired, clearly we could accomplish that end more accurately through the use of computers. Of course, this would only spawn a new political strategy of stacking rulings in the lower courts, thus adjusting the decisions of the Supreme Data Analyst Machine (SuDAM).
Perhaps it is true, as many sources are saying today, that the Supreme Court should not be writing law, because doing so is to trespass into the province of the Legislative branch. Our Justices certainly should not be defining justice based on prevailing opinions, whether from political parties or from the general populace. That is the point of life term positions—the independence and power to consider precedent, reason, and conscience in order to derive just decisions. There’s that word again. It keeps cropping up: justice. Don’t we want our Supreme Court dispensing, above all things, justice?
How do we get that sort of Justice? Certainly we need someone with a couple decades of legal adjudication, and a body of work that displays wise thinking. But we should also want someone with integrity, who is interested in providing justice for the nation, both individually and collectively. And then we have to ask ourselves, just where does a person obtain such character? It certainly is not from today’s mob-propaganda culture. We must find people who can explain their systems of belief. If a person cannot explain why what they believe is true, that person will have a different belief next week. That person will find truth in the winds of popularity…or Mein Kampf, for all we know. That person will not be limited by knowledge or wisdom.
The truth is that every person is limited by faith, but some faiths make us stupid, while others lead us to wisdom. The faith that limits Judge Barrett is what makes her a promising candidate for Supreme Court Justice.