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Texas Faith 8: Should a judge's religious tradition and faith inform their rulings?

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Dallas Morning News,

Each week we will post a question to a panel of about two dozen clergy, laity and theologians, all of whom are based in Texas or are from Texas. They will chime in with their responses to the question of the week. And you, readers, will be able to respond to their answers through the comment box.

For three days, members of a Senate committee pressed Sonia Sotomayor on her view of the law and how individual experience affects judicial decisions. And for three days, Sotomayor was careful to avoid political blunders that might derail her confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In large part, Sotomayor followed the model of other successful Supreme Court nominees: say as little as possible. Mostly, she expressed deep respect for precedent, for the rule of law and for setting aside personal views in deciding cases.

But is that realistic? Or even wise? Should justices who decide the most fundamental questions of our society actually set aside how their faith has shaped their world view? Clearly, judges must not impose a religious litmus test deciding cases. But do the lessons of a judge's religious tradition have any role in understanding - and deciding -- the issues of the day?

Here's the question: How should a particular judge's life experience - including the tenets of religious faith - inform judicial rulings?

The responses of our Texas Faith panel were both thoughtful and provocative, here was the response:

NITYANANDA CHANDRA DAS, minister of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), Dallas

Judicial rulings need to be informed by the facts. Facts are apparent in spirituality as well as in the material world. Just as hearsay has no importance in court, religious dogma has no importance in spiritual facts. Spiritual facts (pramāṇa) can be verified with the following three checks: empiric evidence (Pratyakşa), logic (Anumāna), unadulterated scripture (Śabda). Logic can be divided into two categories inductive and deductive, or analysis and synthesis. More importance is placed on the deductive, that logic that looks at the whole, synthesis, rather than a one case scenario, analysis.

For example someone might say, "I have not seen God, therefore He does not exist." That is inductive logic, such logic is only limited that person's testimony. But deductive logic takes into an account of not just one scenario but rather the whole. It is known that there have been saints who have given accounts of seeing God, some have even described His appearance. Such testimonies can be accounted for and examined in the light of logic and scripture. Whatever process that the saint had used to see God can be experimented upon to see if it produces the same consistent result.

Judges are servants of the interest of society as a whole and for individuals. But if a judge or anyone for that matter does not know who we are, eternal spirit souls encased in temporary material bodies, how can that person know others' self interests and self needs?

Hare Krishna :)

Your humble servant,

Nityananda Chandra Das

To see all the responses from the Texas Faith Panel click here