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Ketanji Brown Jackson, President Joe Biden’s pick to replace Justice Stephen Breyer on the Supreme Court, is facing confirmation hearings this week in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Although senators can ask her about anything under the sun, predictions that some would focus on her religious background have already come true.

In one of the first viral moments of the hearings, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, grilled Jackson about her faith as he bashed Democrats for their past comments on Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s conservative Catholicism. Graham questioned whether Jackson, a self-described nondenominational Protestant, could fairly judge a Catholic before asking her to rate her faithfulness on a scale from 1 to 10.

“On a scale of 1 to 10, how faithful would you say you are in terms of religion? I go to church probably three times a year so that speaks poorly of me. Do you attend church regularly?,” Graham said.

Jackson declined to give a rating, noting that she worried about the message doing so would send to Americans watching at home.

“I am reluctant to talk about my faith in this way just because I want to be mindful of the need for the public to have confidence in my ability to separate out my personal views,” she said.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, questions Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson during her confirmation hearing, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 22, 2022. | J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press

Ahead of the hearings, Jackson referenced her faith in remarks shared as Biden announced her nomination to the court.

“I must begin these very brief remarks by thanking God for delivering me to this point in my professional journey,” she said on Feb. 25, according to Religion News Service. “My life has been blessed beyond measure, and I do know that one can only come this far by faith.”

But even if she hadn’t made those remarks, senators would likely still have asked her about her faith and how it’s shaped her career. Questions along those lines are par for the course in confirmation hearings, as ABC News recently pointed out.

“Matters of faith and religion have been raised during every modern Supreme Court confirmation process,” the article noted.

Questions about faith are often raised in hearings on lower court appointments, too.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., made her infamous comment about Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s Catholic faith — “The dogma lives loudly within you” — during a hearing regarding her appointment to 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017.

And just last year, Jackson faced questions about her religious beliefs after she was appointed to the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, on which she currently serves.

“Any personal views about religion would never come into my service as a judge,” she said at the time, according to ABC News.

The ABC News article noted that Jackson has worked with religious organizations at least two times in a professional capacity. She delivered a speech on the concept of justice to a Presbyterian church in Bethesda, Maryland, in 2017 and served on the advisory board for Montrose Christian School in Rockville, Maryland, in 2010 and 2011.

That latter position prompted the question about the interplay between Jackson’s faith and her legal work during last year’s hearing. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, pointed out that the school, which closed in 2013, promoted conservative beliefs about abortion, LGBTQ rights and family life on its website.

In her response to Hawley, Jackson explained that she does not share every belief of the various organizations she serves and that she wasn’t previously aware of the teachings spelled out on Montrose Christian School’s website.

Although that exchange took place less than a year ago, senators will likely retread the same ground in the days ahead, in addition to asking other questions about Jackson’s faith and her views on religious freedom law. Already, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, questioned her about the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling in 2014 and its impact on people of faith.

Experts predict that the judiciary committee will vote on Jackson’s nomination by the end of the month. A confirmation vote in the full Senate will likely take place before the Senate adjourns for Easter break on April 8, according to The Washington Post.


Fresh off the press


Term of the week: Mammalogist

A mammalogist is an expert on mammals, the group of warm-blooded, hairy, backbone-having animals of which humans are a part.

You might be wondering, “What possible reason is there for Kelsey to write about this term this week?” And the answer is that a mammalogist is the source for the funniest March Madness story I’ve read to date.

In the piece, Hopi Hoekstra, curator of mammalogy for the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University, draws on her mammal-related wisdom to explain the misleading world of college mascots. “It’s important that all animal lovers out there approach the (NCAA men’s basketball) tournament with caution,” she explains. “A Kansas Jayhawk, after all, is neither a jay nor a hawk. It’s all a biological mess.”


What I’m reading

New research on religious discrimination in the workplace reveals that Muslims, Jews and other non-Christians often experience discrimination differently than their Christian coworkers. “Whereas evangelical Christians say they more often feel singled out when taking an individual stand based on their moral views,” others feel targeted because of their association with a larger group, like all Muslims around the world, Religion News Service reported.

Like many Christians, I try to use the period between Ash Wednesday and Easter to reorient my daily routines. This year, I gave up checking Instagram after noon as a way to break my habit of scrolling through it endlessly after work and before bed. Over the past three weeks, I’ve been struck by how much clearer my mind feels. It seems like, without even realizing it, I had been letting Instagram clog up huge chunks of my life. I reflected on my own technological journey as I read this Christianity Today essay on “dumb phones.”

Whether or not they’re raised in a religious group, young people today often struggle to identify and articulate the values guiding their romantic lives. Christine Emba of The Washington Post investigated the pain that comes from this confusion in a recent column and a forthcoming book. She’s calling for all of us to take the need for a new “sexual ethic” more seriously.


Odds and ends

I’ll be at a Religion News Association conference this week catching up with many reporter friends I haven’t seen since 2019. Check my Twitter feed to see what I learn about covering topics like climate change, racism and the Supreme Court.