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Religious Affiliation of the U.S. Supreme Court


Related pages:
- Religious Affiliation of The Legal 100:
the people who have most influenced law

- Religious Affiliation of U.S. Congress
- Religious Affiliation of U.S. Presidents
- Religious Affiliation of U.S. Vice-Presidents
- Religious Affiliation of U.S. Governors
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:

Justice Affiliation
John Roberts
  (Chief Justice)
Catholic
Stephen G. Breyer Jewish
Ruth Bader Ginsburg Jewish
Anthony M. Kennedy Catholic
Antonin Scalia Catholic
David H. Souter Episcopalian
John Paul Stevens Protestant
Clarence Thomas Catholic
Samuel Alito Catholic



Religious Affiliation Justices % of Justices
in this religion
% of U.S. Pop.
   in this religion
Christian Kennedy, Scalia, Thomas, Souter, Stevens, Roberts, Alito 78% 76.5%
Protestant Stevens 11% 53.0%
Catholic Kennedy, Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, Alito 56% 24.5%
    Episcopalian * Souter 11% 1.7%
Jewish Breyer, Ginsburg 22% 1.5%


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.

Justice Affiliation
William H. Rehnquist
  (Chief Justice)
Lutheran (ELCA)
Stephen G. Breyer Jewish
Ruth Bader Ginsburg Jewish
Anthony M. Kennedy Catholic
Sandra Day O'Connor Episcopalian
Antonin Scalia Catholic
David H. Souter Episcopalian
John Paul Stevens Protestant
Clarence Thomas Catholic



Religious Affiliation Justices % of Justices
in this religion
% of U.S. Pop.
   in this religion
Christian Kennedy, Scalia, Thomas, O'Connor, Souter, Stevens, Rehnquist 78% 76.5%
Protestant Stevens, Rehnquist 22% 53.0%
Lutheran Rehnquist 11% 5.2%
Catholic Kennedy, Scalia, Thomas 33% 24.5%
    Episcopalian * O'Connor, Souter 22% 1.7%
Jewish Breyer, Ginsburg 22% 1.5%

* 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

Affiliation # of
Justices
% of
Justices
% of U.S.
population,
2000
Episcopalian 35 32.4% 1.7%
Presbyterian 19 17.6% 2.8%
Catholic 11 10.2% 24.5%
Unitarian 10 9.3% 0.2%
Jewish 7 6.4% 1.5%
Methodist 5 4.6% 8.0%
Baptist 3 2.7% 18.0%
Congregationalist 2 1.9% 0.6%
Disciples of Christ 2 1.9% 0.3%
Lutheran 1 0.9% 5.2%
Quaker 1 0.9% 0.1%
Huguenot 1 0.9%  
"Protestant" not further defined 13 12.0% * 9.7%
Not a member of any church 1 0.9%  
Total 108 100.0% 74.4%

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.

Justice Religion
Charles E. Hughes Baptist
Howell E. Jackson Baptist
Hugo L. Black Baptist
Anthony M. Kennedy Catholic
Antonin Scalia Catholic
Clarence Thomas Catholic
John Roberts Catholic
Edward D. White Catholic
Frank Murphy Catholic
Joseph McKenna Catholic
Pierce Butler Catholic
Roger B. Taney Catholic
William J. Brennan Catholic
Sherman Minton Catholic (convert after retired)
Oliver Ellsworth Congregationalist
Nathan Clifford Congregationalist; later Unitarian
Joseph R. Lamar Disciples of Christ
James C. McReynolds Disciples of Christ
Alfred Moore Episcopal
Bushrod Washington Episcopal
Byron R. White Episcopal
David H. Souter Episcopal
Edward T. Sanford Episcopal
George Sutherland Episcopal
Harlan F. Stone Episcopal
Horace H. Lurton Episcopal
James F. Byrnes Episcopal
James Iredell Episcopal
James Wilson Episcopal
John A. Campbell Episcopal
John Jay Episcopal
John Marshall Episcopal
John Rutledge Episcopal
Melville W. Fuller Episcopal
Morrison R. Waite Episcopal
Owen J. Roberts Episcopal
Peter V. Daniel Episcopal
Philip P. Barbour Episcopal
Potter Stewart Episcopal
Robert H. Jackson Episcopal
Rufus W. Peckham Episcopal
Salmon P. Chase Episcopal
Samuel Chase Episcopal
Sandra Day O'Connor Episcopal
Stephen J. Field Episcopal
Thomas Johnson Episcopal
Thurgood Marshall Episcopal
Ward Hunt Episcopal
William H. Moody Episcopal
Willis Van Devanter Episcopal
Henry Baldwin Episcopal
Gabriel Duval Huguenot
Abe Fortas Jewish
Arthur J. Goldberg Jewish
Benjamin N. Cardozo Jewish
Felix Frankfurter Jewish
Louis D. Brandeis Jewish
Ruth Bader Ginsburg Jewish
Stephen G. Breyer Jewish
William H. Rehnquist Lutheran (ELCA)
Charles E. Whittaker Methodist
Frederick M. Vinson Methodist
Harry A. Blackmun Methodist
Lucius Q. C. Lamar Methodist
John McLean Methodist-Episcopal
David Davis Not a member of any church.
Brockholst Livingston Presbyterian
George Shiras, Jr. Presbyterian
John Catron Presbyterian
John M. Harlan Presbyterian
Joseph P. Bradley Presbyterian
Lewis F. Powell, Jr. Presbyterian
Mahlon Pitney Presbyterian
Robert C. Grier Presbyterian
Samuel Blatchford Presbyterian
Smith Thompson Presbyterian
Stanley Matthews Presbyterian
Thomas Todd Presbyterian
Tom C. Clark Presbyterian
Warren E. Burger Presbyterian
William Johnson Presbyterian
William O. Douglas Presbyterian
William Strong Presbyterian
William Paterson Presbyterian
John Blair Presbyterian; Episcopal
Noah H. Swayne Quaker
Benjamin R. Curtis Unitarian; then Episcopal
Harold H. Burton Unitarian
Horace Gray Unitarian
Joseph Story Unitarian
Oliver W. Holmes Unitarian
Samuel F. Miller Unitarian
Wiley B. Rutledge Unitarian
William Cushing Unitarian
William H. Taft Unitarian
David J. Brewer Protestant
Earl Warren Protestant
Henry B. Brown Protestant
James M. Wayne Protestant
John H. Clarke Protestant
John McKinley Protestant
John Paul Stevens Protestant
Levi Woodbury Protestant
Robert Trimble Protestant
Samuel Nelson Protestant
Stanley F. Reed Protestant
William B. Woods Protestant
William R. Day Protestant

  Service Birth    
Name, state Term Yrs Place Date Died Religion
Chief Justices
John Jay, N.Y. 1789-1795 5 N.Y. 1745 1829 Episcopal
John Rutledge, S.C. 1795 0 S.C. 1739 1800 Church of England
Oliver Ellsworth, Conn. 1796-1800 4 Conn. 1745 1807 Congregationalist
John Marshall, Va. 1801-1835 34 Va. 1755 1835 Episcopal
Roger B. Taney, Md. 1836-1864 28 Md. 1777 1864 Catholic
Salmon P. Chase, Ohio 1864-1873 8 N.H. 1808 1873 Episcopal
Morrison R. Waite, Ohio 1874-1888 14 Conn. 1816 1888 Episcopal
Melville W. Fuller, Ill. 1888-1910 21 Maine 1833 1910 Episcopal
Edward D. White, La. 1910-1921 10 La. 1845 1921 Catholic
William H. Taft, Conn. 1921-1930 8 Ohio 1857 1930 Unitarian
Charles E. Hughes, N.Y. 1930-1941 11 N.Y. 1862 1948 Baptist
Harlan F. Stone, N.Y. 1941-1946 4 N.H. 1872 1946 Episcopal
Frederick M. Vinson, Ky. 1946-1953 7 Ky. 1890 1953 Methodist
Earl Warren, Calif. 1953-1969 15 Calif. 1891 1974 Protestant
Warren E. Burger, Va. 1969-1986 17 Minn. 1907 1995 Presbyterian
William H. Rehnquist, Ariz. 1986-2005 19 Wis. 1924 2005 Lutheran
John Roberts, D.C. 2005- N.Y. 1955 Catholic
Associate Justices
James Wilson, Pa. 1789-1798 8 Scotland 1742 1798 Episcopal
John Rutledge, S.C. 1790-1791 1 S.C. 1739 1800 Church of England
William Cushing, Mass. 1790-1810 20 Mass. 1732 1810 Unitarian
John Blair, Va. 1790-1796 5 Va. 1732 1800 Presbyterian
James Iredell, N.C. 1790-1799 9 England 1751 1799 Episcopal
Thomas Johnson, Md. 1792-1793 0 Md. 1732 1819 Episcopal
William Paterson, N.J. 1793-1806 13 Ireland 1745 1806 Presbyterian (Protestant)
Samuel Chase, Md. 1796-1811 15 Md. 1741 1811 Episcopal
Bushrod Washington, Va. 1799-1829 30 Va. 1762 1829 Episcopal
Alfred Moore, N.C. 1800-1804 3 N.C. 1755 1810 Episcopal
William Johnson, S.C. 1804-1834 30 S.C. 1771 1834 Presbyterian
Brockholst Livingston, N.Y. 1807-1823 16 N.Y. 1757 1823 Presbyterian
Thomas Todd, Ky. 1807-1826 18 Va. 1765 1826 Presbyterian
Gabriel Duval, Md. 1811-1835 23 Md. 1752 1844 French Protestant
Joseph Story, Mass. 1812-1845 33 Mass. 1779 1845 Unitarian
Smith Thompson, N.Y. 1823-1843 20 N.Y. 1768 1843 Presbyterian
Robert Trimble, Ky. 1826-1828 2 Va. 1777 1828 Protestant
John McLean, Ohio 1830-1861 31 N.J. 1785 1861 Methodist-Epis.
Henry Baldwin, Pa. 1830-1844 14 Conn. 1780 1844 Episcopal (Trinity Church)
James M. Wayne, Ga. 1835-1867 32 Ga. 1790 1867 Protestant
Philip P. Barbour, Va. 1836-1841 4 Va. 1783 1841 Episcopal
John Catron, Tenn. 1837-1865 28 Pa. 1786 1865 Presbyterian
John McKinley, Ala. 1837-1852 14 Va. 1780 1852 Protestant
Peter V. Daniel, Va. 1841-1860 18 Va. 1784 1860 Episcopal
Samuel Nelson, N.Y. 1845-1872 27 N.Y. 1792 1873 Protestant
Levi Woodbury, N.H. 1845-1851 5 N.H. 1789 1851 Protestant
Robert C. Grier, Pa. 1846-1870 23 Pa. 1794 1870 Presbyterian
Benjamin R. Curtis, Mass. 1851-1857 5 Mass. 1809 1874 Unitarian; then Episcopal
John A. Campbell, Ala. 1853-1861 8 Ga. 1811 1889 Episcopal
Nathan Clifford, Maine 1858-1881 23 N.H. 1803 1881 Congregationalist; later Unitarian
Noah H. Swayne, Ohio 1862-1881 18 Va. 1804 1884 Quaker
Samuel F. Miller, Iowa 1862-1890 28 Ky. 1816 1890 Unitarian
David Davis, Ill. 1862-1877 14 Md. 1815 1886 Not a member of any church
Stephen J. Field, Calif. 1863-1897 34 Conn. 1816 1899 Episcopal
William Strong, Pa. 1870-1880 10 Conn. 1808 1895 Presbyterian
Joseph P. Bradley, N.J. 1870-1892 21 N.Y. 1813 1892 Presbyterian
Ward Hunt, N.Y. 1872-1882 9 N.Y. 1810 1886 Episcopal
John M. Harlan, Ky. 1877-1911 33 Ky. 1833 1911 Presbyterian
William B. Woods, Ga. 1880-1887 6 Ohio 1824 1887 Protestant
Stanley Matthews, Ohio 1881-1889 7 Ohio 1824 1889 Presbyterian
Horace Gray, Mass. 1882-1902 20 Mass. 1828 1902 Unitarian or Congregationalist
Samuel Blatchford, N.Y. 1882-1893 11 N.Y. 1820 1893 Presbyterian
Lucius Q. C. Lamar, Miss. 1888-1893 5 Ga. 1825 1893 Methodist
David J. Brewer, Kan. 1889-1910 20 Asia Minor 1837 1910 Protestant
Henry B. Brown, Mich. 1890-1906 15 Mass. 1836 1913 Protestant
George Shiras, Jr., Pa. 1892-1903 10 Pa. 1832 1924 Presbyterian
Howell E. Jackson, Tenn. 1893-1895 2 Tenn. 1832 1895 Baptist
Edward D. White, La.* 1894-1910 16 La. 1845 1921 Catholic
Rufus W. Peckham, N.Y. 1895-1909 13 N.Y. 1838 1909 Episcopal
Joseph McKenna, Calif. 1898-1925 26 Pa. 1843 1926 Catholic
Oliver W. Holmes, Mass. 1902-1932 29 Mass. 1841 1935 Unitarian
William R. Day, Ohio 1903-1922 19 Ohio 1849 1923 Protestant
William H. Moody, Mass. 1906-1910 3 Mass. 1853 1917 Episcopal
Horace H. Lurton, Tenn. 1909-1914 4 Ky. 1844 1914 Episcopal
Charles E. Hughes, N.Y.* 1910-1916 5 N.Y. 1862 1948 Baptist
Willis Van Devanter, Wyo. 1910-1937 26 Ind. 1859 1941 Episcopal
Mahlon Pitney, N.J. 1912-1922 10 N.J. 1858 1924 Presbyterian
Joseph R. Lamar, Ga. 1910-1916 4 Ga. 1857 1916 Disciples of Christ
James C. McReynolds, Tenn. 1914-1941 26 Ky. 1862 1946 Disciples of Christ
Louis D. Brandeis, Mass. 1916-1939 22 Ky. 1856 1941 Jewish
John H. Clarke, Ohio 1916-1922 5 Ohio 1857 1945 Protestant
George Sutherland, Utah 1922-1938 15 England 1862 1942 Episcopal
Pierce Butler, Minn. 1923-1939 16 Minn. 1866 1939 Catholic
Edward T. Sanford, Tenn. 1923-1930 7 Tenn. 1865 1930 Episcopal
Harlan F. Stone, N.Y.* 1925-1941 16 N.H. 1872 1946 Episcopal
Owen J. Roberts, Pa. 1930-1945 15 Pa. 1875 1955 Episcopal
Benjamin N. Cardozo, N.Y. 1932-1938 6 N.Y. 1870 1938 Jewish
Hugo L. Black, Ala. 1937-1971 34 Ala. 1886 1971 Baptist
Stanley F. Reed, Ky. 1938-1957 19 Ky. 1884 1980 Protestant
Felix Frankfurter, Mass. 1939-1962 23 Austria 1882 1965 Jewish
William O. Douglas, Conn. 1939-1975 36 Minn. 1898 1980 Presbyterian
Frank Murphy, Mich. 1940-1949 9 Mich. 1890 1949 Catholic
James F. Byrnes, S.C. 1941-1942 1 S.C. 1879 1972 Episcopal
Robert H. Jackson, Pa. 1941-1954 13 N.Y. 1892 1954 Episcopal
Wiley B. Rutledge, Iowa 1943-1949 6 Ky. 1894 1949 Unitarian
Harold H. Burton, Ohio 1945-1958 13 Mass. 1888 1964 Unitarian
Tom C. Clark, Tex. 1949-1967 17 Tex. 1899 1977 Presbyterian
Sherman Minton, Ind. 1949-1956 7 Ind. 1890 1965 Catholic
John M. Harlan, N.Y. 1955-1971 16 Ill. 1899 1971 Presbyterian
William J. Brennan, Jr., N.J. 1956-1990 33 N.J. 1906 1997 Catholic
Charles E. Whittaker, Mo. 1957-1962 5 Kan. 1901 1973 Methodist
Potter Stewart, Ohio 1958-1981 23 Mich. 1915 1985 Episcopal
Byron R. White, Colo. 1962-1993 31 Colo. 1917 2002 Episcopal
Arthur J. Goldberg, Ill. 1962-1965 2 Ill. 1908 1990 Jewish
Abe Fortas, Tenn. 1965-1969 3 Tenn. 1910 1982 Jewish
Thurgood Marshall, N.Y. 1967-1991 24 Md. 1908 1993 Episcopal
Harry A. Blackmun, Minn. 1970-1994 24 Ill. 1908 1999 Methodist
Lewis F. Powell, Jr., Va. 1972-1987 15 Va. 1907 1998 Presbyterian
William H. Rehnquist, Ariz.* 1972-1986 14 Wis. 1924 2005 Lutheran
John Paul Stevens, Ill. 1975- Ill. 1920 Protestant
Sandra Day O'Connor, Ariz. 1981- Tex. 1930 Episcopal
Antonin Scalia, D.C. 1986- N.J. 1936 Catholic
Anthony M. Kennedy, Calif. 1988- Calif. 1936 Catholic
David H. Souter, N.H. 1990- Mass. 1939 Episcopal
Clarence Thomas, D.C. 1991- Ga. 1948 Catholic
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, D.C. 1993- N.Y. 1933 Jewish
Stephen G. Breyer, Mass. 1994- Calif. 1938 Jewish

* 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).

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Religion of the Supreme Court web page created 26 March 2001. Last modified 31 January 2006.