The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies of The Episcopal Church, issued this statement in response to the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County vs. Holder:
“In the summer of 1965, two weeks after President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law, Episcopal seminarian Jonathan Myrick Daniels died a martyr’s death in Alabama where he was spending the summer registering African American voters. Four days later, Episcopalian Thurgood Marshall, who was already a lion of the civil rights movement, became United States Solicitor General. In that office, and later as the first African American justice of the Supreme Court, he championed the voting rights of all Americans. The legacy of these two men, both saints of the Episcopal Church, guides us to this day.
“The Episcopal Church has given its best and brightest to the cause of voting rights for half a century, and today’s regrettable Supreme Court decision will not change that. Together with Episcopalians across the church, I call on President Obama and Congress to move quickly to pass legislation, consistent with the court’s decision, that will ensure the protection of equal voting rights for all Americans. We will not rest until the legacy of Daniels, Marshall, and thousands of other Episcopalians who fought with them is secure.”
The House of Deputies is one of the two legislative houses of General Convention, the governing body of The Episcopal Church that meets every three years to set the church’s mission priorities, budget and policies. At the 77th General Convention of The Episcopal Church in 2012, Jennings was elected president of the House of Deputies by her peers. She is the first ordained woman to hold the position. Jennings is an alumna of Episcopal Divinity School, the same seminary where Jonathan Daniels was a student when he was martyred.
Images courtesy of the Archives of The Episcopal Church