The Asymmetry of Majority and Minority


Jewish people are not in any serious way oppressed in the United States of America. But still, being a member of a religious minority group is a distinctive experience. Even in a country that doesn’t officially make Christianity an official state religion, Christianity seems to be the official religion of the state. When Christmas comes around, everyone gets days off so that people can go spend the holidays with their families. When Passover comes around, you get nothing. Mail comes on Saturday but not on Sunday. Liquor stores are closed on Sunday. That’s life, and it’s hardly the worst thing in the world. But it does give you a different perspective on things. And I think it’s a perspective that would probably help a Jewish judge to understand the claims of minorities religious groups in general. Not just other Jews, but Muslims and Hindus and Jehovah’s Witnesses and all the rest. These insights don’t necessarily determine outcomes, but you could imagine a Christian missing some of the real dynamics here. And by the same token, it strikes me as plausible to say that a Muslim judge or a Hindu judge would have similar virtues.

But this is a way of saying that membership in a religious minority group could enhance a judge’s insight into the constitutional protections due to members of religious minority groups. It’s not a claim about Muslims and Hindus and Jews. It would make no sense to look a Hindu judge in India and attribute special insights to him. For a Christian in the United States to say that being a Christian gives him special insight into religious freedom litigation would be creepy and possibly offensive. But if he was saying that his background growing up as a Christian in Lebanon gives him special insight, that would be a totally different thing.

More broadly, you don’t need to make any claims about the special virtues of any group in particular in order to see the point that a diverse group of decision-makers is going to reach a better understanding of issues than a monolithic group would.