WASHINGTON (RNS) — Leaders of a range of faiths stood before the Supreme Court and declared their support for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, the historic nominee for associate justice, to take a seat within its chambers.
Those who stood before the high court’s steps on Wednesday (March 30) represented the position of some 2,000 people who have signed a letter urging the Senate to “swiftly” confirm Jackson, whom President Joe Biden nominated in February. Jackson is the first Black woman to be considered for the high court.
“Judge Jackson said upon being nominated that she has come this far by faith,” reads the letter organized by the liberal-leaning Faith in Public Life. “Together in faith, we must complete our country’s long journey to equal justice.”
Jackson’s nomination is expected to be considered further by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, following the sometimes contentious set of hearings last week.
During those hearings, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., asked Jackson about her faith and how important it was to her.
“Personally, faith is very important. But as you know, there’s no religious test in the Constitution under Article 6,” she said in her response, which also included her self-description as a nondenominational Protestant. “It’s very important to set aside one’s personal views about things in the role of a judge.”
Speaking at the noontime rally, Maggie Siddiqi, senior director for religion and faith at the Center for American Progress, referred to “several inappropriate questions” by Graham and compared herself to Jackson.
“My faith is important to me too and it was profoundly significant to me that a new Supreme Court Justice might boldly affirm that there is no religious test for public office in this country,” said Siddiqi. “It is clear Judge Jackson is committed to our religiously pluralistic democracy. And I urge you to confirm her today.”
A fellow South Carolinian described watching from afar as her senator’s line of questioning continued.
“I likened that experience unto a Brillo pad,” said the Rev. Doris Hicks, a Christian Methodist Episcopal Church pastor, referring to the scouring pad used to remove grease and dirt from pots and pans. “And the more he edged her, the more she shined.”
While Jackson has generally been private about her faith, speakers in her favor prayed for Senate action and tied their support for her to their religions. Representatives included members of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, Catholics for Choice, Muslim Advocates, People for the American Way, National Council of Jewish Women, Washington’s Masjid Muhammad and the National Baptist Convention, USA.
Mary Novak, executive director of Network Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, noted that in addition to her signing the joint letter that was the focus of the rally, Network delivered to the Senate a letter signed by thousands of its advocates and members, including 1,100 Catholic nuns.
“As a former death penalty lawyer myself and as a Catholic, I can say from experience, we need her,” she said of Jackson, whose record as a public defender and a federal judge have been highlighted since her nomination.
Orlan Johnson, director of public affairs and religious liberty for the North American Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, prayed for God’s guidance for the Senate.
“I’m aware that there’s nobody here that has the power to handle the Senate like you,” he prayed. “Help them to understand, God, that we do not have to put ourselves in a situation where just because we are different, we have to be divided. Just because we want to be partisan, that’s not the only way to be patriotic.”
Rabbi David Saperstein, former U.S. ambassador-at-large for religious freedom, noted that images of Moses grace the outside and inside of the building, including one of him carrying the Ten Commandments.
“Here in this nation where its laws have given us more rights and freedoms and opportunities than we have ever known in Diaspora life, preserving those rights and freedoms in this high court reflects our most cherished values, hopes and dreams,” he said. “Ketanji Brown Jackson is the embodiment of that America.”
This story has been updated.