E.J. Dionne Jr. ["Why It's Right to Ask About Roberts's Faith," op-ed, Aug. 2] was right to say that it "cannot be wrong" for Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) "to raise the religious issue" with Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr., "but [be] just fine" for Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) "to do the same thing." That's why the Catholic League criticized both Mr. Durbin and Mr. Coburn.

But Mr. Dionne is wrong to suggest that Mario Cuomo is on to something when he says that those bishops who criticized Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) would be in a bind if Judge Roberts said his religious views would not affect his rulings.

The difference between a lawmaker and a judge is fundamental. A lawmaker is expected to vote his conscience on what serves the common good; therefore, nothing is inappropriate about repairing to the wisdom that inheres in one's religion for guidance. But a judge's task is to interpret the Constitution as it was meant to be interpreted by those who wrote it and then apply that knowledge to existing law. Taking cues from one's religion, then, would be inappropriate for a judge. Thus, it should be inappropriate to pry into Judge Roberts's religion.

All that needs to be asked is whether Judge Roberts holds any conviction so strongly -- whatever the source -- that it would disable him from fairly interpreting the Constitution.



Catholic League for

Religious and Civil Rights

New York