ARTICLE: "The King's Good Servant, but God's First"* The Role of Religion in Judicial Decisionmaking Skip over navigation
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Copyright (c) 2000 South Texas Law Review, Inc.
South Texas Law Review

ARTICLE: "The King's Good Servant, but God's First"* The Role of Religion in Judicial Decisionmaking

* Statement of Sir Thomas More immediately prior to his execution on July 6, 1535. Butler's Lives of the Saints 190 (concise ed. 1991).

Fall, 2000

South Texas Law Review

41 S. Tex. L. Rev. 1277


Teresa S. Collett**


I. Introduction
The role of religious beliefs in the lives of government officials is once again in the spotlight. 1 Candidates for office jockey for the label of "safely devout" - a person with a deep faith in God, but a faith capable of being strictly separated from any official decisions. 2 Candidates for judicial office particularly disavow any religious influence upon their professional judgment. 3 To some, such disavowals are the price one pays to insure religious liberty for all. 4 To others, an admission that one can separate faith from professional practice suggests an unhealthy spiritual schizophrenia. 5

This essay joins a growing body of literature exploring the legitimacy and role of religious beliefs in judicial decision making. 6 Section II examines the common, yet largely unsuccessful, claim that a judge's religious beliefs may be the basis for disqualifying the judge from hearing a case. Section III presents the arguments surrounding the broader question of the proper role of religious beliefs in adjudicating cases. This section concludes that religious beliefs of judges necessarily influence their decisions, often in ways that support both the rule of law and public confidence in the judicial process. This article concludes by affirming the present judicial stance of allowing judges wide discretion in determining whether their religious beliefs render them ineligible to hear particular cases, and suggesting that it is both foolish and futile to promulgate laws, rules, or professional norms that require agnosticism (or the public appearance of agnosticism) as ...
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