E. J. Dionne, Jr. thinks that its a good thing for politicians to discuss their faith in the public square, especially when it has some bearing on the positions they take. I agree.
But a judge is not a politician, a distinction that seems to be lost on all those who think judges "make law" (an expression I first heard out of the mouth of NPRs Nina Totenberg almost twenty years ago when she lectured on my campus). Being guided by ones conscience in lawmaking is one thing. But judges are called to interpret and apply the law, not enact the contents of their conscience. Dionnes position, Durbins alleged query, and all the brouhaha about William Pryors "deeply held beliefs" all take for granted an understanding of adjudication as activist lawmaking or constitution-writing. And while Ill take Dionnes word for it when he agrees with conservatives that "religiously inspired voices have a legitimate place in the public square," Senator Durbin and his colleagues are playing the religion card to insinuate that some voices (or consciences) dont belong on the bench. By failing to distinguish between judging and legislating, Dionne is offering cover to those who would mutter about divided loyalties and imply that the law cannot be consistent with religiously orthodox moral and social teaching.