John Roberts was confirmed by Congress on 29 September 2005 as the new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, replacing Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist.
The chart below reflects the composition of the Supreme Court since 31 January 2006, when Samuel Alito was confirmed by U.S. Congress. Justice Alito replaced Sandra Day O'Connor, who in 2005 announced her retirement would be effective immediately once her replacement was confirmed. Samuel Alito was nominated on 31 October 2005 and was confirmed with relative ease:
Religious Affiliation of the U.S. Supreme Court Prior to 3 Sepember 2005
Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist passed away on 3 September 2005 as a result of thyroid cancer. Prior to that, on 1 July 2005, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor announced her retirement from the Supreme Court, effective upon the confirmation of her successor. John Roberts (a Catholic) is President George W. Bush's appointed candidate to replace Justice O'Connor, but he has not yet been confirmed by Congress. This was the first time since 1971 that there were two simultaneous vacancies on the U.S. Supreme Court.
* Episcopalian and Protestantism: Episcopalians have been left out of the "Protestant" category in the table above. Depending on the type of classification system consulted, Episcopalians are sometimes classified as "Protestant" and sometimes not. Episcopalians are part of the Anglican communion, which pre-dates Martin Luther's Protestant Reformation and is often referred to as the "Anglo-Catholic" church, a branch mid-way between Catholicism and Protestantism. If one includes the two Episcopalian justices, 44% (4 out of 9) of the Supreme Court justices are Protestant.
Religious Affiliation of All U.S. Supreme Court Justices
# of Justices
% of Justices
% of U.S. population, 2000
Disciples of Christ
"Protestant" not further defined
Not a member of any church
Some major U.S. religious groups which have never been represented on the U.S. Supreme Court: Pentecostals (2.1%), Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints/Mormons (2%), Muslims (1.5%), GLBT (1.5%), Buddhists (0.5% to 0.8%), Jehovah's Witnesses (0.6%), Mennonites (0.6%), Eastern Orthodox (approx. 0.5%).
* "Protestant" not further defined: According to 2000 Gallup polling data, 57% of Americans identify themselves as Protestants. But most also identify with a specific denomination or denominational family. In the 1990 Kosmin NSRI survey, 9.7% of Americans stated their religious preference as "Protestant", without further denominational identification.
It is important to note that the relative proportion of membership in various religious groups has changed dramatically over the course of U.S. history. For example, when the nation was founded, Congregationalists and Episcopalians were among the largest denominations, but there were very few Catholics. Today, the Catholic Church is the largest U.S. denomination. Also, there are only nine Supreme Court justices, so it would be impossible to ever have a Court that reflects every possible demographic group. So, to compare the proportion of Supreme Court justices in various denominations from throughout U.S. history versus the proportion of U.S. citizens in those denominations today is not as meaningful as, for example, comparing the current religious composition of the U.S. House of Representatives to the current religious demographics of the U.S. population.
* Associate Justices marked with an asterisk in the table above became Chief Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court. Note that the years of service in the Associate Justice section indicate only the years during which they served as an Associate Justice. Their years as Chief Justice are indicated in the top section of this table.
Although we have added additional information and expanded upon its presdentation considerably, a major source of the table above was: "Members of the Supreme Court of the United States" in the "History and Government" section of the Lycos InfoPlease website (http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0101281.html; viewed 26 March 2001).