As members of the United States Senate consider their upcoming vote on President Joe Biden’s Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson, Christians should be wary of readily singing the judge’s praises.
Jackson has received a lot of publicity, as well as endorsements, from across the country as she seeks to be the first African-American woman confirmed to the United States Supreme Court. However, after carefully watching the Senate hearings for her confirmation, and examining her past record, I have concerns that Jackson will be a voice of freedom for all if she sits on the nation’s highest court.
Let us not forget that if she is confirmed (as we expect they have the votes to do so), she will receive a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. She is in her early 50s, so the confirmation could present huge future barriers for Christians and the consequences of this vote will have an impact for several generations.
Although Jackson freely proclaims her faith in “God” as an important part of her life, it is seemingly impossible to find information on what church she attends, what her actual beliefs are when speaking of faith, and any leadership role she may have held in any church. When pressed during the hearings, she hesitantly said she was non-denominational and then followed by “Protestant.” Now, do not get me wrong, being Protestant, itself is not why I believe she is a bad choice for the Court. However, she is always vague regarding her faith and only speaks of “God”, so it begs the question as to what God she is speaking about and who is her God.
At the beginning of her Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, she spoke of her faith and said, “and while I am on the subject of gratitude, I must also pause to reaffirm my thanks to God, for it is faith that sustains me at this moment.” However, she never directly answered questions when it came to her belief.
Senator John Cornyn of Texas used some of his time to speak to her about the battle of the Little Sisters of the Poor to be exempt from the requirement of the Affordable Care Act to provide contraceptives, which directly opposes Catholic teaching. Sen. Cornyn asked Jackson if she believed it was “important to accommodate the sincerely held religious beliefs of all Americans when it comes to legislation that the Congress may pass.”
Jackson did not answer the question. Her response was a vague and general discussion of the law, but not her personal belief. She touted that the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion. She continued and said, “It’s in the First Amendment of the Constitution and reflects the Founding Father’s understanding of this country as being one that is based in large part on the idea of pluralism, the idea that people can come and have sincerely held religious beliefs and practices them without persecution. That’s part of the foundation of our government.”
That’s true Judge Jackson. However, what is your personal belief about the issue? Jackson did not answer the senator’s question about what her personal belief is regarding if those like the Little Sisters of the Poor should have a right to not follow a mandate, such as a contraceptive mandate, which goes directly against their faith. Why did she not answer? I suspect she did not answer because she knows the answer is not one the people of the United States would accept. I also suspect she thought it would cost her the nomination to the Court. I also suspect, however, that her view of faith versus the law is something that drives her decisions – and that’s something that is dangerous.
Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina asked her how faithful she was to her church and faith on a scale of 1-10. Again, Jackson refused to answer. She said, “I am reluctant to talk about my faith in this way because I want to be mindful of the need for the public to have confidence in my ability to separate out my personal views.”
Separate her personal views from how she will rule in a court decision? Sounds like someone else who is sitting in a high leadership position in the country that has politics directly opposed to the teachings of the faith he professes. (maybe that is why he nominated her)
But Jackson has answered the faith question previously (well, kind of but not really) when she replied in writing in 2021 as she faced the Senate confirmation hearing for her appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. She was asked if she agreed with court rulings that overturned state restrictions on funding for religious institutions or on public worship during the pandemic. In her written response she said, “I have not expressed any personal views of the scope and contours of the fundamental right to religious liberty, and it would not be appropriate for me to do so.” Why would it not be appropriate for a judge to say they agree with something that is already guaranteed to Americans by the Constitution? The only reason I can think of for it to not be appropriate for her to speak on it is if she disagreed with the Constitutional right to religious freedom, and that should scare everyone of any religion in this country.
Does it matter if she speaks on her personal beliefs as opposed to acknowledging what the law says? Yes, it does. We must remember that for the rest of her life, if confirmed, when she sits on the Supreme Court that she no longer has an obligation or requirement to follow Supreme Court precedent. She could overrule the Supreme Court precedent simply by a vote and influence.
Jackson, during the Senate hearings, also refused to answer Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee when Blackburn asked her to define a “woman”. Jackson refused. She told Senator Blackburn she “could not” define a woman. Jackson, a Harvard graduate, is either lying because again she is unwilling to put her beliefs on political issues on record OR Harvard is turning out some of the most ridiculously dumb graduates we have ever seen. I doubt the later is true.
With Jackson refusing to answer what her beliefs are about religious freedom or defining a woman, Catholics should be concerned. If Jackson, as hinted at by her refusal to answer the question about religious freedom, believes institutions and organizations should be forced to follow the law despite their religious beliefs (as she basically said she does in her own life), then the Catholic Church should be deeply concerned. What happens if someone takes a case to the Supreme Court regarding the seal of Confession? Jackson could make a precedent requiring priests to reveal what is said in the confessional, causing many priests to be at risk of fines or jail for refusal. What happens if someone sues a diocese for not allowing him to seek the priesthood despite the fact he is transgender and was born a woman? What happens if someone sues a religious order for not allowing them to become a religious brother because he is a woman that has transitioned to a man? It is not a far stretch to imagine these scenarios given the direction our society has been heading in recent years.
Jamie L. Manson, president of Catholics for Choice, released a statement endorsing Jackson’s confirmation by saying, in part, “Catholics for Choice welcomes President Biden’s historic nomination for U.S. Circuit Judge Kentaji Brown Jackson to serve as the 104th associate judge of the United States Supreme Court…. As the Senate considers this nominee, we call on senators to evaluate her based on her commitment to three criteria: Will she uphold the First Amendment’s protection of freedom of – and freedom from – religion? Will she safeguard the constitutional rights of equal protection, dignity, and privacy protected by the Fourteenth Amendment? Will she be committed to advancing justice, civil rights, equal rights, and individual liberties for all? Catholics for Choice urges the Senate, especially the 25 members who are Catholic, to move with all deliberate speed in this confirmation process. Our fundamental rights depend on it.”
Catholics for Choice are touting her praise and urging her confirmation. That should tell you all you need to know about how dangerous Jackson is to religious liberty and to Catholics.