There has been much talk since Donald Trump’s nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court about the choice thrilling conservative evangelical activists. I wonder how many of those happy, religiously oriented Court-watchers knew Gorsuch was a fellow Protestant Christian who would, if confirmed, break an odd duopoly that Roman Catholics and Jews have had on the Court since 2010.
That’s right: Since John Paul Stevens retired from the Court in 2010, the Court has been bereft of WASPs, or any sort of Protestants. From then until Antonin Scalia’s death, there were six Catholics (Alito, Kennedy, Roberts, Scalia, Sotomayor, and Thomas) and three Jews (Breyer, Ginsburg, and Kagan) on SCOTUS. So there will still be a Catholic majority no matter what happens to Gorsuch, but it will be diminished if he gets through the Senate as most people expect.
The new nominee does not, however, belong to an evangelical church. He belongs, like Donald Trump, to one of those much-despised-and-derided-by-conservatives mainline Protestant denominations; while Trump is a Presbyterian, Gorsuch is an Episcopalian. In fact, Gorsuch would be the 34th Episcopalian to serve on the Court, reflecting that faith community’s once-dominant position among white American elites. If there are any Catholics out there upset about one of their co-religionists being replaced by a Protestant, they may be comforted that Gorsuch went to a Jesuit prep school before decamping to the Ivy League for his postsecondary education.
The apparent lack of interest in Gorsuch’s personal faith affiliation among conservatives most interested in faith is a sign of the extent to which the Christian Right has itself become secularized. What you do on the Sabbath matters little to them so long as you are willing to fight against reproductive rights, anti-discrimination policies, and threats to those God has blessed with great wealth.