Catholic Pierce Butler's dissent, May 2nd, 1927

Pierce Butler, SCOTUS Judge 1923-1939

Years before Hitler rose to power with talk of a "Master Race," early 20th-cenruty America fell prey to its own eugenics craze. Championed by the likes of Harry Laughlin and Charles Davenport, many of the country's elites started advocating for the forced sterilization of its weakest members, especially the handicapped, believing strict birth control policies held the key to a better tomorrow.

Toward that end, the Commonwealth of Virginia adopted legislation in 1924 that permitted the sterilization of the "intellectually disabled." They based the statute on Laughlin's "model eugenics law," which he designed to withstand constitutional challenges (and which later served as the template for the Third Reich's eugenics laws).

Almost immediately, a state mental institution put the legislation into practice on 18-year-old Carrie Buck. The institution's board claimed that Buck was a promiscuous "imbecile." In truth, Buck had been raped by her foster cousin, become pregnant, and was institutionalized to keep the rape secret.

After her sterilization, the Commonwealth of Virginia challenged the procedure in court--not because it objected but rather to test the legislation's strength. Because of the collusive nature of the case (including the fact that Buck's lawyer sat on the institution's board), the truth about Buck's situation remained secret.

In 1927, when Buc v Bell reached the Supreme Court, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., supported the Virginia statute, writing, "It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind."

Seven justices sided with Holmes in his May 2, 1927, decision. Only one, Pierce Butler, a Catholic from Minnesota who sat on the court between 1923 and 1939, dissented. Butler wrote no opinion explaining his vote (which was common then), but his Catholicism was widely "blamed."

Before issuing the decision, Holmes wrote, "I wonder whether [Butler] will have the courage to vote with us in spite of his religion."

To Butler's credit, he had a different kind of courage.
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Excerpt from American Catholic Daily Reader - 365 Patriots, Saints & Rogues Who Shaped America
Brian Burch, Emily Stimpson Chapman
Agatha James
There is a interesting video out there on "Human Zoos". Various tribal people were put on display in at the St. Louis Worlds Fair. A poor pygmy tribesman was subjected to this at the Bronx Zoo. They were offered as examples of Darwinism.

Human Zoos and Ota Benga