Editorial: Are Catholics key to the Tree of Life shooting jury? – TribLIVE

Posted By on September 6, 2022

Tree of Life shooting suspect Robert Bowers will go to trial next year.

The federal criminal case has dragged on for almost four years since that Saturday morning in October 2018 when Squirrel Hill joined the list of mass shooting locations in the U.S. Eleven people died at the synagogue, which was home to three congregations. It was the deadliest synagogue shooting in American history.

This week, the defense filed a motion asking for a one-question survey of would-be jurors ostensibly to ensure that Catholics and other religious groups are not being screened out of the pool.

The Catholic Church opposes the death penalty. The defense argued that keeping Catholics out of the mix could set up a jury more likely to deliver a deadly verdict in the capital case.

The question is interesting initially because the defense and prosecution requested in June that the jury questionnaire be sealed.

Aside from that, the language proposed is simple: What is your present religion, if any? But is it that cut and dried?

A list of options is given, including Protestant denominations, Roman Catholic, Mormon, Jewish and others. The phrasing of the motion and the list does beg another question. Is the defense being disingenuous?

The Tree of Life shooting is one of the most prominent examples of antisemitic attack in recent history. But a question about religion is proposed, and it is focused on Catholics?

Yes, as the defense notes in its motion, Pew Research Center does say the greater Pittsburgh area has a large Catholic population about 1 in 3 people. But Pew says other things about Catholics. That only 39% attend Mass regularly. That only 43% take communion when they do and more than half dont go to confession. About 68% of Catholic women of reproductive age use birth control, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

All of that says Catholics have no problem going against what the pope says.

At the same time, the Public Religion Research Institute puts support for life sentences over death penalty equally at about 68% for Catholics, Jews and many other religions as well as those without a faith.

So does making sure Catholics are included in the pool matter? It could. There definitely shouldnt be a reason to exclude them.

But polling for Catholicism in a case where antisemitism is really on trial seems like misdirection.

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Editorial: Are Catholics key to the Tree of Life shooting jury? - TribLIVE

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