Starting on March 21st, 2020, the Senate Judiciary Committee began four days of confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. During these hearings, Judge Jackson answered questions about her credentials, perspectives, and judicial record. Ahead of these hearings, Interfaith Alliance conducted our own analysis of her record on religious freedom and submitted five questions on religious freedom for the committee to consider.
On day two of the hearings, instead of focusing on pertinent questions about her judicial record, Senators Lindsey Graham and John Cornyn pursued deeply troubling lines of questioning about faith and religious freedom. In a letter, Interfaith Alliance raised our concerns with the offices of Senator Graham, Senator Cornyn, and Ranking Member Grassley, urging them to uphold their oath of office and respect our constitutional values.
No Religious Test for Office
During the hearing, Senator Graham questioned Judge Jackson about her faith at length and attempted to use faithfulness as a metric to determine judicial fitness, even asking, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how faithful would you say you are, in terms of religion?”
Article Six of the Constitution prohibits any religious test for office, judgeships included. The shifting religious makeup of the Supreme Court over time — sometimes dramatically — is the best indication that personal religious convictions are not part of the qualification for a Justice. Instead, each Justice bears the responsibility of ensuring that every American, regardless of personal conscience, receives equal treatment under the law.
By assessing Judge Jackson on her faithfulness, Senator Graham attempted to blur the line that prevents a religious test for office and separates matters of personal belief from one’s duties as a Justice.
Religion as a License to Discriminate
In a separate line of questioning, Senator Cornyn launched a broadside attack against marriage equality, making clear that he supports efforts by the Religious Right to use religion as a license to discriminate against same-sex couples. In his questioning, the Senator inappropriately pressed Judge Jackson to agree that Obergefell v. Hodges represented judicial overreach and a violation of religious freedom.
Issues of religion can and should be part of the national conversation about our public officials, but it should never be used as a weapon for political battle. Senator Cornyn’s questions misrepresented the true meaning of religious freedom and sent the message that the Court should support weaponizing religion as a license to discriminate.
Our Officials Should Serve All Americans, Not Just the Few
When public officials take their oath of office, they make a promise to their constituents to protect and serve the American people, regardless of who they are and what they believe. Interfaith Alliance and religious Americans across the country call on members of the Judiciary Committee to uphold that oath in all that they do.
Learn more about Interfaith Alliance’s efforts to protect true religious freedom.