President Biden is nominating Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the US Supreme Court. His announcement today fulfills a campaign promise to pick the first Black woman for the nation’s highest court. Brown Jackson, 51, is currently a judge for the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
A problematic but historic nomination
I have written previously that Mr. Biden’s campaign pledge to nominate a Black woman to the Court, while an effective political strategy, brings a demographic dimension to the Court that our founders did not intend. They created a representative democracy with three branches: a president elected by all the people, a Congress composed of members elected by their constituents (senators by their states and representatives by their districts), and a Supreme Court composed of unelected justices.
These justices are intended to hold the laws created by Congress and the actions of the president accountable to the Constitution as it was written and intended to be interpreted. As such, the justices are not intended to make laws, but rather to evaluate them by constitutional standards.
As a result, applying a demographic filter to a nominee—whatever that filter might be—brings a representative dimension to the Court that the founders did not intend.
Having said this, I do not want to miss the opportunity to note the significance of the president’s announcement. Judge Brown Jackson, if confirmed by the Senate, would be the first Black woman ever to serve on our nation’s highest court. As was the case when the first Black man ascended to the court, and the first woman, and the first Hispanic woman, this is an historic moment.
It demonstrates our nation’s continued commitment to fulfill our creedal declaration that “all men are created equal.” And it expresses the biblical doctrine of the sanctity of all people, whatever their gender or ethnicity.
We are each created by God in his image: “male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). We are each loved fully and unconditionally by the God who is love (1 John 4:8). As St. Augustine noted, God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.
And we are each welcomed into the family of God: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). A Black woman on our nation’s highest court, whatever the political calculus that led to her nomination, sends a strong signal for the biblical values of equality and inclusion.
“She is an amazing person”
Judge Brown Jackson was a high school debate champion who went on to graduate from Harvard Law, where she was an editor on the Harvard Law Review. She’s been a federal judge for nine years and was appointed last year by President Biden to the US Court of Appeals for the DC Court, sometimes called the nation’s “second-highest court” and a “waiting bench” for likely Supreme Court nominees.
She met her husband, Dr. Patrick J. Jackson, while both were students at Harvard. He is a surgeon at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. They have two daughters—one a senior in high school and the other in college.
She is related by marriage to Paul D. Ryan, the former Speaker of the House and Republican vice-presidential candidate. At her 2012 confirmation hearing to serve as a district court judge in the US capital, Mr. Ryan testified in her support, calling her “clearly qualified” and “an amazing person.”
“Our politics may differ, but my praise for Ketanji’s intellect, for her character, for her integrity, it is unequivocal,” he said. “She is an amazing person, and I favorably recommend your consideration.”
“I do believe in religious liberty”
Outlets are currently publishing articles with more information on Judge Brown Jackson’s background and judicial positions. My concluding focus in this Special Edition is on her faith and the implications of her nomination for religious issues in American life.
I was unable to find much information online about her faith or religious commitments, though I expect to see more reporting on this question in the days to come. I did learn that she served as an advisory school board member for the Montrose Christian School in Rockville, Maryland, in 2010 and 2011. This is significant because the school, a ministry of the Montrose Baptist Church, has a statement of beliefs that defines marriage as “the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime” and that opposes “all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality, and pornography.”
However, when asked about her board service during her confirmation hearing for the DC Court, she stated that she did “not necessarily agree” with all the statements of the many boards on which she has served. She added regarding the school’s statement, “I was not aware of that.”
She did state, “I do believe in religious liberty,” calling it a “foundational tenet of our entire government.” She was confirmed on June 14, 2021, by a 53–44 vote. Republicans Susan Collins, Lindsey Graham, and Lisa Murkowski joined all Democrats in voting for her.
How to pray for Judge Brown Jackson
If confirmed, Judge Brown Jackson would replace Justice Stephen Breyer on the Supreme Court, widely viewed as one of the three “liberal” justices. As a result, given her wide support among liberals, she would likely preserve the Court’s current six-to-three “conservative vs. liberal” balance.
As we face enormous challenges to religious liberty in our day, the Court could well issue rulings in the coming years that would affect every Christian and every American. The so-called Equality Act, if it were passed by Congress and signed by the president, is one example of legislation that would almost certainly be reviewed ultimately by the Court.
In our calling to pray “for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions” (1 Timothy 2:1–2), it is incumbent upon Christ-followers to pray for Judge Brown Jackson and for the senators who will consider her nomination. Let’s pray that:
- She would know Christ personally and make him known publicly.
- She and our senators would use her confirmation hearings to advance civility and unity in our nation.
- If confirmed, she would consistently support “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” and thus would be an advocate for life from conception to natural death and for religious liberty.
As we pray for Judge Brown Jackson, let’s ask God to help us utilize our positions of influence for his glory as well. Nine Americans serve on our nation’s highest court, but one King rules the universe.
Paul prayed, “To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever” (1 Timothy 1:17).
Will you make his prayer your own and then seek to answer it with your life today?