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VIDEO: A Catholic Perspective on the Supreme Court and the Senate

A leading Catholic Constitutional law scholar gave Benedictine College his perspective on the battle over the Supreme Court on April 7.

Professor Lee J. Strang, a constitutional law scholar and John W. Stoepler Professor of Law & Values at the University of Toledo, spoke about “A Catholic Perspective on the United States Constitution and the Supreme Court.”

Strang, who holds an LL.M. degree from Harvard Law, has taught at several universities including Ave Maria School of Law.  He also clerked for a federal judge and practiced law in Chicago.

“I think there’s two ways to evaluate a Supreme Court nominee from a Catholic perspective,” he said. “One would be on what is that nominee’s view on the substantive meaning of the Constitution and the second is what is that nominee’s view on the Constitution how we interpret it?” he said.

He said the judge’s views seem to match Catholic views on substantive question.

“Judge Gorsuch appears to be not a fan of abortion. He appears to believe in traditional marriage appears to believe in relatively limited federal government a robust religious liberty. So on the substantive issues that Catholics in United States care about he seems to be a pretty good candidate a pretty good nominee.”

He also said, “Judge Gorsuch is well known or criticized for being somebody who has written and publicly said he wants to follow the original meaning of the Constitution. … He would look at the Constitution in a way that Catholics would find compatible with the rule of law.”

What about the question of the rules change, the so-called “Nuclear Option”? The U.S. Senate adopted a bare majority vote rule instead of the majority vote normally required for Supreme Court nominees.

“Just yesterday the Senate voted to change that to just a simple majority vote. I’m personally of two minds about that,” said Strang. “I think from the Catholic perspective one of the things that Catholics are known for and we value is tradition. We value tradition for a whole bunch of reasons — but one of them and this is kind of the small-c Burkean conservative reason is that if something has worked well for a long period of time that’s good evidence that it’s a good way to approach that subject. And so that small t tradition of the Senate requiring 60 votes seems to have worked pretty well for a long period of time. It’s not perfect — nothing in government is perfect,” he said. But “I think if I were to think just more broadly about what the value of having a 60 vote requirement is it’s that it’s it’s going back to the framers.”

How will Gorsuch’s confirmation change the senate?

“Judge Gorsuch is filling Justice Scalia’s seat. And Justice Scalia was well known for being an originalist and so if I’m right that Judge Gorsuch is an originalist similar to Justice Scalia and that means the makeup of the courts can be relatively stable. But what the next nominee is likely to do is likely to replace somebody who is not of the same level of commitment to originalism.”

So with this vote, the Supreme Court will stay as it was before Scalia’s death, he said. It is the most likely next retirements from the Court that will change it the most.

Professor Strang has published in the fields of constitutional law and interpretation, property law, and religion and the First Amendment. He recently had an article on Originalism published in the Hastings Law Journal. Among other scholarly projects, he is currently editing a casebook on constitutional law for LexisNexis, is a frequent contributor at scholarly conferences, and is a regular speaker and participant in debates at law schools across the country.

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Benedictine College

Founded in 1858, Benedictine College is a Catholic, Benedictine, residential, liberal arts college located on the bluffs above the Missouri River in Atchison, Kansas. The school is proud to have been named one of America’s Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report as well as one of the top Catholic colleges in the nation by First Things magazine and the Newman Guide. It prides itself on outstanding academics, extraordinary faith life, strong athletic programs, and an exceptional sense of community and belonging. It has a mission to educate men and women within a community of faith and scholarship.