Catholic League president William Donohue has jumped to the defense of Judge Samuel Alito, the latest nominee to the Supreme Court, after a series of negative comments have been made in reference to his Catholic faith.
On Tuesday, National Public Radio reporter Dahlia Lithwick said she was concerned about a case in 2004 in which Alito allowed “a New Jersey Christian children’s group to proselytize on public school grounds,” and a “Christmas display case that he felt was constitutionally permissible even though there were overt religious symbols.”
“In her mind,” said Donohue, “this ‘clearly’ makes him ‘a fan of allowing greater entanglement between church and state in public plans.’”
But Donohue points out that Lithwick excluded important information in her on-air report.
“What she doesn’t say is that in the former case, Alito said the school district could not engage in ‘viewpoint discrimination’ by treating the free-speech rights of Christian students different from the rights of other students,” Donohue said. “In the latter case, the ‘overt religious symbols’ were deemed acceptable because they were surrounded by secular holiday symbols. In doing so, Alito followed the exact standard that Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor developed in 1984.”
Donohue also responded to comments made by Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority. Smeal is reportedly warning that if Alito becomes a Supreme Court Justice, “the majority of the court would be Roman Catholic, which would underrepresent other religions, not to mention nonbelievers.”
Donohue downplayed this claim, which has been made by Smeal and others since Alito was nominated.
“Indeed, even if Alito gets on the bench, there will [still] be a greater disproportion of Jewish justices than Catholic justices: Catholics are 25 percent of the population and would constitute 55 percent of the justices … Jews are one percent of the population and already comprise 22 percent of the justices,” he argued.
Donohue also noted Smeal’s anti-Catholic activism. She was once arrested outside the Vatican embassy in Washington while protesting the visit of Pope John Paul II to the U.S. She has also protested outside the Vatican Mission in New York.