Clarence Thomas: Only God Matters?
Three associate justices, one judge sworn in (Birmingham News)
Three new associate justices of the Alabama Supreme Court and one judge of the Court of Civil Appeals took oaths of office Friday in ceremonies at Troy University’s Davis Theatre. The 1,200-seat theater was packed with relatives and friends of new justices Tom Parker, Mike Bolin and Patricia M. Smith, and civil appeals judge Tommy Bryan.
Many stood and applauded former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore as he walked to the stage to administer the oath to Parker. Moore’s action was ceremonial, since Parker took his formal oath of office Thursday before U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in Washington. Parker said Thomas told him a judge should be evaluated by whether he faithfully upholds his oath to God, not to the people, to the state or to the Constitution.
Did Thomas actually say this? One would certainly hope not.
Update (1252): In a follow-up post, Atrios quotes the actual transcript of Parker’s account:
PARKER: “Just moments before I placed my hand on the Holy Scripture, Justice Thomas soberly addressed me and those in attendance. He admonished us to remember that the worth of a justice should be evaluated by one thing, and by one thing alone: whether or not he is faithful to uphold his oath _ an oath which as Justice Thomas pointed out is not to the people; it’s not to the state; it’s not even to the Constitution, which is one to be supported, but is an oath which is to God Himself.”
Atrios is right that this is markedly different than what the News reported and believes it let’s Thomas “off the hook.” Agreed. While I share Atrios’ unease with this “civil deism,” it is a custom of our Republic predating its founding to invoke religion to bolster public oaths. Given Thomas’ devout Catholicism and the audience to whom he was speaking, I don’t begrudge him emphasizing the religious nature of the oath.
Update (1738): Steve at Southern Appeal has quite a bit of background on Parker and is disappointed that Thomas lent his credibility to the man’s inauguration.