Baptist groups denounce Supreme Court ruling on race-conscious college admissions

“This decision points back to the deep-rooted issues of white supremacy in our country by limiting access to education for students of color,” said the BJC Center for Faith, Justice and Reconciliation. 

Sep 7, 2023

By Lindsey Gradowski, summer BJC intern

Several Baptist-affiliated groups decried the Supreme Court’s June 29 ruling declaring that race-conscious college admissions policies are unconstitutional.

The ruling in the Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President and Fellows of Harvard College and Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. University of North Carolina, et al. cases overturned race-conscious affirmative action policies for college admissions. The Supreme Court has previously upheld similar policies multiple times, including as recently as 2016. This decision prohibits colleges and universities from considering an applicant’s race during the admissions process, thus curtailing admission officers’ ability to consider the impact that systemic racism may have had on an applicant’s life and educational journey.

“This decision points back to the deep-rooted issues of white supremacy in our country by limiting access to education for students of color,” the BJC Center for Faith, Justice and Reconciliation said in a statement following the decision. According to the Center, the Court’s decision “recalls the disembodiment of communities of color in the United States, where people are valued for the work their bodies can produce rather than the whole of their humanity.”

The Progressive National Baptist Convention (PNBC) categorically rejected the ruling, calling it “[u]tterly reprehensible and harmful to the future of American economics and democracy” in a statement. To suggest otherwise, PNBC said, is denying the lingering dangers of the legacy of race-based slavery.

“Affirmative action gives nonwhite students the pathways they deserve and racism structurally denied their intelligent ancestors,” PNBC continued, noting that Black students and families still face race-conscious discrimination.

“As dangerous as White Christian Nationalism and interpersonal racism prove to be, today strips us of the illusion that our government possesses a thoroughgoing devotion to racial justice,” PNBC continued. As the denominational home of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., PNBC noted that “this decision shreds one of the few extant, hard-fought achievements of the Civil Rights Era, a moment in American history PNBC members worked to realize.”

The Alliance of Baptists also condemned the decision. The Rev. Dr. Elijah Zehyoue, co-director of the Alliance of Baptists, named it as part of a trend of Supreme Court decisions that negatively affect the marginalized and vulnerable. “As an antiracist, LGBTQ+ affirming organization that is theologically conscious of God’s preferential option for the poor, we are aware that we are called to continue to raise our voice in solidarity with all people affected by these decisions,” Dr. Zehyoue said.

The Center, PNBC, and Alliance of Baptists all shared their commitment to action. PNBC said it will continue to partner with the nation’s Black churches and Historically Black Colleges and Universities “to ensure the growth of the Black middle class.” The BJC Center said it plans to mobilize faith communities to action. The Alliance of Baptists similarly expressed its commitment to remain faithful to the work, calling on all to support movements that work to liberate society from “fundamentalism, exclusion, and racism.”

Academic institutions also decried the Court’s ruling. The Wake Forest University School of Divinity, a school that partners with the BJC Center for Faith, Justice and Reconciliation, released a statement lamenting the Supreme Court’s decision. “The issue of affirmative action is not just a matter of law, it is also a matter of values,” said the Rev. Dr. Corey D.B. Walker, interim dean of the school. He noted that, in an age of white Christian nationalism and attacks against gender, ethnic and religious minorities’ rights, “today’s ruling reminds us that matters of law cannot be separated from matters of values. And not just the values of individuals, but of a nation.”

Dr. Walker emphasized that diversity is not just a conceptual matter, but a principle. “God creates in diversity and not in sameness,” he said. “As a theological community grounded in ‘justice, reconciliation, and compassion’ we are called to affirm the gift of diversity in humanity and in all of God’s creation.”

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion for the 6-3 Supreme Court majority. Many universities, Roberts held, “concluded, wrongly, that the touchstone of an individual’s identity is not challenges bested, skills built, or lessons learned but the color of their skin.”

Other justices disagreed. In separate dissents, Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ketanji Brown Jackson expressed disagreement with the majority’s assertion that America is colorblind. Justice Sotomayor wrote that the majority opinion “cements a superficial rule of colorblindness as a constitutional principle in an endemically segregated society where race has always mattered and continues to matter.”

“With let-them-eat-cake obliviousness, today, the majority pulls the ripcord and announces ‘colorblindness for all’ by legal fiat,” Justice Jackson lamented in her dissent. “But deeming race irrelevant in law does not make it so in life.”

Keep scrolling to read additional statements reacting to the decision, curated by the BJC Center for Faith, Justice and Reconciliation.

This article first appeared in the fall 2023 edition of Report from the Capital.  You can download it as a PDF or read a digital flip-through edition

Additional statements reacting to the decision, curated by the BJC Center for Faith, Justice and Reconciliation:

Statement from the National Council of Negro Women:

“… The ruling diminishes the rights of all students to a higher education experience, regardless of their socioeconomic status, ethnic background, or location. This is yet another example of how Black and Brown citizens are marginalized and devalued in a society that should elevate equity and democracy. …”

Statement from United Women in Faith:

“… We are gravely disappointed in this decision, which represents a massive step backwards for racial equity. We are concerned about the immense harm this decision will have on students as well as the long-term precedent of eroding affirmative action. United Women in Faith also joins the United Methodist Church, which previously issued a resolution on affirmative action, and reiterates our support for affirmative action as an important tool in efforts to achieve equity. …” 


“While we are mourning today’s decision, we are not defeated by it,” said Elizabeth Chun Hye Lee, Director of Mobilization and Advocacy for United Women in Faith.

Statement from the NAACP:

“… Race plays an undeniable role in shaping the identities of and quality of life for Black Americans. In a society still scarred by the wounds of racial disparities, the Supreme Court has displayed a willful ignorance of our reality. The NAACP will not be deterred nor silenced in our fight to hold leaders and institutions accountable for their role in embracing diversity no matter what,” said NAACP President & CEO Derrick Johnson.

Statement from the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.):

“… Affirmative action opened the doors for thousands of students of color over the years who had the drive, grades, and passion for learning, but lacked the financial resources and influence to get into higher level schools. … Now universities and colleges across the country will be faced with the challenge of finding other ways to help Black and Latino students reach their scholastic goals,” said J. Herbert Nelson II, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), on his last day in office.

Statement from the presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church:

“… Our mandate as followers of Jesus is clear: to create the Beloved Community by facing painful truths from our past, learning from them, and then turning and joining hands together to right wrongs and foster justice and healing. … The Episcopal Church has long supported programs of affirmative action to address inequality wherever it exists. This work continues, and our faithful witness is more important now than ever before,” said Bishop Michael Curry, presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church.