January 22, 2011 | 11:39 am
Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
Satan showed up when the justices, as they often do, sought to push the bounds of each side’s arguments with extreme hypothetical questions. Would unfounded rumors of satanic connections (such as have dogged Procter & Gamble for years) be material enough to warrant a formal disclosure under the Court’s test addressing information that a “reasonable shareholder” would need to know? It’s not an entirely crazy question: such strange allegations dogged Procter & Gamble for decades and became the subject of a high-profile lawsuit in which the company sued some Amway distributors for spreading the rumors. A jury eventually awarded Procter & Gamble $19.25 million in 2007.
Several justices asked “satanic” questions, all in a manner that suggested that no “reasonable” person would ever seriously consider “irrational” notions that a product could be linked to “satanic influences.” One might as well have substituted the tooth fairy for Satan. Justice Scalia put it most bluntly and drew the biggest laugh. The government’s lawyer (surprise) did not directly answer his question.
I have no reason to doubt the sincere religious faith of any of the justices, but while some remained silent none in any way sought to suggest that, rather than being a laughing matter, perhaps the hypothetical questions were straying into a truly dangerous domain. I laughed too, but quickly began to feel quite uncomfortable with the scene. While I worry about those who see the Devil everywhere, I worry even more about a culture that fails to see the demonic (or the sacred) anywhere.
To begin, Court membership is currently split between Catholics and Jews. There are no evangelicals members of the court, who would be most likely to believe in literal spiritual warfare and demonic interference with righteous intentions.
More importantly, though, I don’t want my unbiased, arbiters of justice to be imputing their religious beliefs into their legal—and I might add, binding and final—judgments of the law.
Yes, I believe the devil is not just a mental adversary but a real dude. A real bad dude. And I hope my national leaders believe the same. But the “truly dangerous domain” would be if our Supreme Court Justices were interpreting law based not upon the Constitution and legislative history but upon their own religious understandings.
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