What Religion Is Brett Kavanaugh? And Why Does Donald Trump Care?
Brett Kavanaugh, Donald Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court, is deeply unpopular. One reason why is Kavanaugh’s opinions on abortion rights, which may go hand-in-hand with his religious views. But what religion does Brett Kavanaugh practice? And did Donald Trump select Kavanaugh because of his religion? Plus, how will Kavanaugh’s religion affect his votes if he becomes the next Supreme Court justice?
Here are all of the details you need to know.
The religion Brett Kavanaugh practices? Roman Catholicism
The Washington Post reported that Donald Trump seriously considered two Catholic judges as Supreme Court nominees to replace Anthony M. Kennedy. And in choosing Brett Kavanaugh, Trump “chose a judge reared in Washington’s finest Jesuit institutions, including Georgetown Preparatory School.” Kavanaugh is active in several Catholic organizations and coaches his daughter’s Catholic Youth Organization basketball team.
The fact that Kavanaugh is Catholic doesn’t guarantee that he’d help overturn Roe v. Wade. (That’s the 1973 decision in which the Supreme Court ruled that Americans have the right to access abortion legally.) And many people don’t think that the court will reverse its 2015 decision to legalize same-sex marriage. But plenty of voters believed that any justice Trump nominates would curtail access to abortion and uphold conservative interpretations of religious liberty.
Evangelicals voted for Donald Trump because he promised to appoint conservative justices
The Post points out that when he was campaigning for president, Donald Trump promised to appoint conservative justices. Those justices would presumably overturn Roe v. Wade and advance other conservative Christian priorities. Trump knew that he could use his Supreme Court nominations to get Christians — both evangelical and Catholic voters — to vote for him.
As the Post explains, those promises convinced evangelicals to “put up with many aspects of Trump’s candidacy and administration that they might otherwise have found distasteful.” But that leads us to another question: How conservative is Brett Kavanaugh?
How conservative is Brett Kavanaugh?
FiveThirtyEight reports that it’s difficult to fully know Kavanaugh’s ideology. “There is no shortage of speculation about his personal or political worldview — but it’s not especially uniform.” Vox notes, however, that what we do know is that a court with Kavanaugh taking Kennedy’s place is more likely to overturn Roe v. Wade, reject challenges to capital punishment and solitary confinement, rule in favor of religious challenges to anti-discrimination law, reverse Supreme Court rulings on gay rights, and bar government actors from engaging in race-based affirmative action.
Likewise, FiveThirtyEight reports that “If confirmed, Kavanaugh is likely to be a very conservative justice in the mold of [Samuel] Alito or Neil Gorsuch.” The publication adds that “it doesn’t matter whether he’s the second- or third-most conservative member of the court — the question is whether he’ll join the solid bloc on the right-most side of the court or stake out territory in the center-right, like Roberts.”
How would he vote in the Supreme Court?
NPR notes that six of the nine justices in the Supreme Court are Catholic. And except for Sonia Sotomayor, all of the Catholic justices are conservatives, appointed by Republican presidents. “There’s reason for that,” NPR notes. “While there is a liberal, social-justice strain in Catholicism, there is a sharp divide between them and more conservative Catholics.” Many experts say that the Catholic vote is “predictable” on the issue of abortion. Most male Catholics on the court have worked to decrease the power of Roe v. Wade.
An evangelical justice could have been another option. But there “isn’t a very deep bench of evangelical judges for Trump to draw from,” NPR explains. Some experts say that that’s because while Catholicism and Judaism “have a long intellectual tradition, American evangelicalism has been more practical in focus.”
Catholics and Evangelicals: The same agenda or different priorities?
NPR reports that “Roman Catholics and evangelicals, two Christian groups that have had overlapping political priorities in the past, find their agendas diverging.” In recent decades, the two groups shared opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage. And their common interest in parochial schools united them. However, NPR reports that their alliance is “coming under strain, in part over their different reactions to the Trump administration’s policy priorities.”
The Catholic Church has raised concerns about the welfare of immigrants. Meanwhile, Evangelicals are “replacing Catholics as the base of the anti-abortion movement.” Despite their concern about abortion, evangelical voters played the long game in the 2016 election. Slate notes that they voted for Trump because he would protect their “religious freedoms” with his justice nominees. “When asked which issues were ‘very important‘ to them in the election, white evangelicals were significantly likelier to list Supreme Court appointments than abortion,” Slate reports.
Should religion affect the way Kavanaugh would rule in the Supreme Court?
While Brett Kavanaugh’s religion is likely to affect the decisions he makes on the bench, you could argue that it shouldn’t. The Washington Post reports that Justice William J. Brennan Jr. — a Catholic just like Kavanaugh — helped persuade a majority of the court to legalize abortion. And that was despite the fact that Brennan was “fundamentally and morally opposed to abortion,” and “found the practice unthinkable — personally, but not constitutionally.” Brennan explained:
I wouldn’t under any circumstances condone an abortion in my private life. But that has nothing to do with whether or not those who have different views are entitled to have them and are entitled to be protected in their exercise of them. That’s my job in applying and interpreting the Constitution.
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