The other day, Rush Limbaugh seized upon Circuit Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s membership in a professional women’s association called the Belizean Grove:
“Today, my friends, we turn our attention to the latest revelation from Judge Sonia Sotomayor. It appears that Ms. Sotomayor, the model of diversity and inclusion, has some explaining to do regarding her membership in a club.
“Not just any club — a club whose members are all female. In documents provided to the Senate Judiciary Committee, the honorable judge wrote this: ‘I am a member of the Belizean Grove, a private organization of female professionals from the profit, nonprofit and social sectors. The organization does not invidiously discriminate on the basis of sex. Men are involved in its activities — they participate in trips, host events and speak at functions — but to the best of my knowledge, a man has never asked to be considered for membership.’ (I don’t blame ’em!)
“The group includes over 100 high-level executives and upper-crust women from the corporate and government worlds.
“However… the Code of Judicial Conduct bars judges from belonging to any organization that practices discrimination based on race, sex, religion, or national origin.
“I wonder. If Justices Roberts or Thomas belonged to an association that discriminated against females, if Justices Alito or Scalia were discovered to have membership in a group that excluded females, how would liberals have reacted? Would they have forgiven the judges’ involvement in an “old boy’s club”? Or would they have erupted in a full-blown, five-alarm rage?
“Safe to say, any conservative in this situation would find their nomination dead in the water. Clubbed — like a baby seal. No question about it. I think I’m going to send Sotomayor, and her club, a bunch of vacuum cleaners to help them clean up after their meetings.”
Let’s put aside the backhanded swipes about vacuum cleaners and about understanding why men would never want to apply for membership in the Belizean Grove.
Let’s also assume, for the sake of discussion, that membership in an organization that restricts membership on the basis of gender or religion raises a question of compliance with the Code of Judicial Conduct.
It appears that Rush has not done very much fact-checking before spouting off. (I am shocked, shocked….) It also appears that Associate Justice Samuel Alito has a problem.
Specifically, according to the web site of the California Chapter of the Roman Catholic fraternal organization known as the “Knights of Columbus,” Associate Justice Alito is a member of that organization. See “Famous Knights” at “About Us,” http://www.kofc-ca.org/?t=t_ab…
To qualify for induction into the Knights of Columbus, a would-be member must be, “… a practical Catholic gentleman, who is 18 years of age or older.” “A practical Catholic is one who is in union with the Holy See and who practices the precepts of the Catholic Church.”
So, the Knights of Columbus is an organization that restricts membership on the basis of both gender and religion.
The Knights themselves have been active in the political sphere, in connection with such issues as same-sex marriage and the availability of abortion.
The Knights have filed amicus curiae briefs in cases before the Supreme Court dealing with such issues as:
— partial-birth abortion,
— the constitutionality of the phrase, “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance,
The Knights have also filed amicus briefs at the state-appeals-court level in same-sex marriage cases in Maryland,
In 2005, the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal fined a local chapter of the Knights of Columbus $2000 for refusing to rent its meeting hall to a same-sex couple.
At least one other Justice has had dealings with the Knights of Columbus. Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, while apparently not a member, has spoken before at least one gathering of the Knights of Columbus. This resulted in Justice Scalia recusing himself from deliberations in the Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow case.
I am not aware of similar judicial or political activism by the Belizean Grove.
I also do not recall membership in the Knights of Columbus ever being an issue when then-Circuit Judge Alito was being considered for elevation to the Supreme Court.
Last night, Circuit Judge Sotomayor announced that she had resigned her membership in the Belizean Grove. She resigned in an attempt to prevent her membership from becoming a source of distraction during the upcoming confirmation hearings.
In light of the apparent lack of controversy concerning then-Circuit Judge Alito’s membership in the Knights of Columbus, it would seem that Circuit Judge Sotomayor is the victim of a double standard.