Not often is a saint of the Episcopal Church attacked in the chambers of the United States Senate, but incredibly, it has happened this week, during the Elena Kagan confirmation hearings. As we prepare to celebrate our cherished American values of equality and justice on Independence Day, we must also rise to defend the late Justice Thurgood Marshall, an Episcopalian who embodied those ideals.
Marshall is an Episcopal saint. He was the first African American to become a justice of the United States Supreme Court and was the lawyer for the plaintiffs in the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education case that struck down the institutional racism of segregated public schools. He was also a man of deep religious principles. Last summer, the Episcopal Church voted to include him in our book of saints, called Holy Women, Holy Men. May 17, the day of the Brown vs. Board decision, is his feast.
During his years in Washington, Justice Marshall and his family belonged to St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church, where his widow, Sissy, is still an active member. On behalf of all Episcopalians in the Diocese of Washington, I extend to her my sympathy for the hurtful remarks made this week about her late husband. Let me assure Mrs. Marshall and all Episcopalians that our church is resolute in our gratitude for and admiration of Justice Marshall’s legacy, and we pray that we may all receive his exceptional grace and courage to speak the truth.