Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) on Tuesday tried to make a point that Republicans were angry about how Democrats had questioned a previous GOP-backed Supreme Court nominee about her religion — by questioning Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson at length about her own faith, then trying to reassure her after the fact that interrogations about her religion would not happen.
On the second day of Jackson’s confirmation hearing, Graham opened his allotted time to question President Biden’s Supreme Court nominee by noting how others had praised Jackson’s personal background.
“You have a wonderful family. You should be proud,” Graham said. “And your faith matters to you. What faith are you, by the way?”
Though it would be potentially illegal under federal law for an employer to ask a job candidate about their religious beliefs, Jackson started to respond that she was a nondenominational Protestant — before Graham cut in and asked if she felt she could judge a Catholic person fairly.
“Senator, I have a record of … judging everyone — …” Jackson replied.
Graham interrupted Jackson several more times, as she tried to state that it was important to set aside one’s personal views when considering cases.
“I’m just asking this question because how important is your faith to you?” Graham asked. “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?”
At one point, Jackson said her faith was “very important” and also pointed out that “there’s no religious test in the Constitution.”
After some halting back and forth, Graham launched into an aside about Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s 2020 confirmation hearings, where her membership in the little-known Christian group People of Praise came under increased public scrutiny.
At the time, some Republicans recalled that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) had questioned Barrett’s religion during her 2017 confirmation hearings for the U.S. Circuit Court.
“You have a long history of believing your religious beliefs should prevail,” Feinstein said to Barrett then. “When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for years in this country.”
Graham brought this up again Tuesday to Jackson, even though Jackson had no involvement in the Barrett hearings.
“How would you feel if a senator up here said your faith, the dogma lives loudly within you and that’s of concern? How would you feel if somebody up here on our side said, you know, you attend church too much for me or your faith is a little bit different to me and they would suggest that it would affect your decision. Would you find that offensive?” Graham asked rhetorically. “I would, if I were you.”
Graham said he had no doubt Jackson could adjudicate people’s cases fairly regardless of her faith.
“The only reason I mention this, judge: You’re reluctant to talk about it because it’s uncomfortable,” Graham said. “Just imagine what would happen if people on late-night television called you an effing nut speaking in tongues because you’ve practiced the Catholic faith in a way they couldn’t relate to or found uncomfortable.”
As Graham wrapped up his grievances about the treatment of Barrett — seemingly conflating her 2017 Circuit Court confirmation hearings with her 2020 Supreme Court confirmation process — Jackson mostly sat silently with a neutral expression.
“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,” Graham said. “Judge Barrett, I thought, was treated very, very poorly.”
Shortly afterward, Graham also invoked Janice Rogers Brown, whose nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit by President George W. Bush was filibustered for nearly two years by Democratic senators, including then-Sen. Joe Biden. Graham claimed there were two standards in the committee.
“If you’re an African American conservative woman, you’re fair game to have your life turned upside down, to be filibustered no matter how qualified you are,” Graham said. “And if you express your faith as a conservative, all of a sudden you’re an effing nut.”
“And we’re tired of it, and it’s not going to happen to you,” Graham added, with disgust. “This stuff needs to stop. Our people deserve better respect. I hope when this is over people will say you were at least well-treated, even if we don’t agree with you.”