This week on Capitol Hill, lawmakers are grilling Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, President Joe Biden’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court. If confirmed, Jackson would mark a number of Supreme Court firsts. She’d be the first Black woman to serve on the nation’s highest Court and the first former public defender to rise to the job. She’d also be just the second Protestant on the Court — a surprise given that nearly half of all Americans are Protestant.
“I must begin these very brief remarks by thanking God for delivering me to this point in my professional journey,” Jackson said in February. “My life has been blessed beyond measure, and I do know that one can only come this far by faith.”
Several religious groups and figures released approving statements of Biden’s pick.
“I applaud the historic nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court,” Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock, who is a pastor, said in a statement. “Georgians want a nominee who is fair, qualified, and has a proven record of protecting Americans’ constitutional rights and freedoms. I look forward to reviewing this nomination.”
Reverend Al Sharpton agreed, tweeting that Jackson has the “experience, character, integrity, and dedication to the Constitution and the rule of law to serve on the nation’s highest Court.”
Many conservative religious groups questioned Jackson’s stance on abortion, a subject on which she has never narrowly ruled. March for Life Education and Defense Fund president Jeanne Mancini released a statement saying she expected Jackson to be “a reliable vote for the far left and the Biden administration’s radical abortion agenda.”
Jackson, like former President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett before her, said that Roe V Wade is the law of the land. “Roe and Casey are the settled law of the Supreme Court concerning the right to terminate a woman’s pregnancy,” she said under questioning. “They have established a framework that the court has reaffirmed, and in order to revisit, as Justice Barrett said, the Supreme Court looks at various factors because stare decisis is a very important principle.”
She also affirmed her belief in religious liberty, calling it a “foundational tenet of our entire government.”
Her faith was the subject of a heated line of questioning from Senator Lindsey Graham. “What faith are you, by the way?” he asked her. When she replied that she was a non-denominational Protestant, he asked: “Could you fairly judge a Catholic?”
Jackson tried to answer but Graham interrupted, saying, “I’m just asking this question because how important is your faith to you?” he said. “On a scale of 1 to 10, how faithful would you say you are, in terms of religion? You know, I go to church probably three times a year, so that speaks poorly of me. Or do you attend church regularly?”
Jackson said her faith was “very important” to her and noted that “there’s no religious test in the Constitution.”
Graham recalled how intensely Democrats had scrutinized the Catholic faith of Barrett in 2017 and 2020. That scrutiny reached a fever pitch during Barrett’s Circuit Court confirmation hearings, when Senator Dianne Feinstein told Barrett that “the dogma lives loudly within you,” — a critique many said crossed the line. Graham asked Jackson how she’d feel about such a comment before saying, “I am convinced that whatever faith you have and how often you go to church, it will not affect your ability to be fair and I just hope going in the future that we all can accept that. Judge Barrett, I thought, was treated very, very poorly.”
If Jackson is confirmed, she will be the fourth woman on the Supreme Court — the highest number in American history.