For the first 190 years of its existence, from 1790 to 1980, the religious divisions that defined the court were denominational in nature rather than ideological.
Perhaps the strongest indication of the hegemony of mainline Protestantism during the early era of the court is how little it was questioned. The appointment of a few non-Protestant justices did little to alter the religious character of the court.
Lack of religious diversity
It also reflected the then-widespread understanding of religious identity as being based primarily on an affiliation with a particular religious denomination.
Rise of the religious right
The emergence and growing strength of the religious right, which sees removal of religion from the public square as an assault on faith, has had huge ramifications for the Supreme Court.
If Amy Coney Barrett’s appointment goes through, as it likely will, she will become the eighth appointee who was raised as a Catholic since the installation of her mentor Justice Scalia, and the seventh member of the current court to be raised as a Catholic.
But more to the point, she will become the sixth conservative Christian member of the court, facing off against a liberal wing reduced to one Catholic and two Jewish – but all secularist – justices.