The nomination of Elena Kagan for Supreme Court should outrage evangelical Protestants. The reason is not simply her legal perspective, her lack of judicial experience, or her personal view of faith and religious liberties. Devout Christians of all denominations and races are in danger of experiencing what blacks in the late 1960s and early 1970s called “institutional racism” or “institutional discrimination.” Blacks of that era saw that there was a pervasive attitude that prevented black achievement among the national leadership, who ran many of our nation’s most influential institutions. Civil rights laws had been enacted but the effect of those laws was nullified by the personal prejudices of high-ranking gatekeepers - everyone from judges to CEOs, policeman to professors, and other individuals who exercised personal power over our lives.
Many evangelicals and other Protestants felt like they woke up and discovered they were suddenly deemed the “bad guys” by many segments of our society. The cultural swing by a militant anti-faith minority is certainly not Elena Kagan or President Obama’s fault. Nonetheless, the composition of America’s highest court will determine our national spirit, values, and destiny. Therefore, the faith of the prospective judicial candidate matters.
In a misguided quest for justice, many have begun to wage an ideological war against a group they have labeled the religious right. Out of fear, these factions discriminate against people of living faith. Their fear, however, has to do with a desire to impose their values on the rest of the nation. Their argument is that there must be a separation of church and state. “After all,” they reason, “America has changed dramatically since its inception.” What many of us forget is that the American dream was based on concepts and values compatible with biblical faith and religious freedom of all people. The truth is that our nation must choose to retain or reject this cornerstone of our freedom. The operative word is “choose.”
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.