Catechism and Constitution: The Role of Faith in Recusal on the Supreme Court

By Hanna Carey

Faculty Mentor: Professor Emile Lester

This project explores the role of Catholicism on the decisions of Supreme Court Justices in capital, high-profile cases, and what role religion plays on recusal of Justices from the Court. The research covers Catholic doctrines and teachings on capital punishment (among other life-or-death issue areas) and the different interpretations thereof. It also explores the influx of Catholic and Christian members of the Supreme Court and how the want to universalize and evangelize can put pressure on high-profile members of the Church in their secular jobs. It includes works from Catholic Church leaders and prominent decisions on capital cases decided by a heavily Catholic bench. In a culmination of looking at different ideas of morality and responsibility of a trials judge versus an appellate court, along with modern and traditional interpretations of Scripture, it concludes that religion is still not a preexisting condition or vested conflict of interest. While the No Religious Test Clause indicates that it is unconstitutional for a judge to be disqualified solely on their faith, it is unfair for the parties in a trial to be subject to a significantly altered Supreme Court bench because of personal interpretations of religion. If one’s religion will keep a Justice from carrying out their position on the Court in certain issue areas simply because of the subject matter, then the Justice cannot carry out their duties to the highest court in the land.