In his first inaugural address, President Barack Obama famously included nonbelievers among those who are dutiful citizens of this nation. But while one in five U.S. citizens responds "none" when asked which religion he or she affiliates with, all nine U.S. Supreme Court justices profess affiliation with one religion or another. If President Obama has another opportunity to appoint a justice to the highest court in the land, he should, in all fairness, appoint the first "none" justice.
The important legal reasons for appointment of a none to the Supreme Court can be summed up by the observation that religious justices have demonstrated an utter lack of understanding of the none perspective. Nones range from the disinterested to the rabid opponents of religion, from spiritualists to naturalists. But their perspectives on religion have common elements that are missing from Court decisions on religious rights and the establishment of religion.
The recently concluded Supreme Court term included the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby case, a classic example of religionists' increasing demands for favorable treatment from the courts. In a 5-4 vote the Court's majority granted Hobby Lobby, a private corporation, the right to deny its employees healthcare coverage for four types of contraception that it objects to on religious grounds.
The most important problem with this ruling (and one that a none justice might have emphasized) is that it ignores the negative implications of requiring the government (and therefore taxpayers) to pay for employees' contraception when corporate employers won't foot the bill on religious grounds. The ruling fails to require these employers to pay extra for the high costs incurred by like-minded religionists due to additional pregnancies and births. It tears at the fabric of our nation by short-circuiting the long-honored understanding that everyone contributes for their part, whether or not they like the part other people get. Finally, the Hobby Lobby decision violates the Establishment Clause (including the express language of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom on which the clause is based), in that it requires someone to pay for someone else's religion.
A "none" justice would be able to drive home the broader point that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, on which the Hobby Lobby decision rested, is an unconstitutional attempt to interpret the Constitution so that it grants privileges that the Establishment Clause...