Rev. Ira J. Acree speaks at the Leaders Network/Rainbow Push June 30 press conference denouncing the Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action in college admissions | Credit: Provided

Chicago faith leaders, including members of the West Side’s Leaders Network, denounced the June 29 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that found the use of affirmative action in college admissions unconstitutional.

The court ruled on two cases dealing with admission of white and Asian-American students to Harvard College and the University of North Carolina. The court’s conservative-leaning six-justice majority found that race-based college admissions violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The ruling applied to public and private colleges, but not military academies.

On June 30, members of the Leaders Network joined Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. and Rainbow PUSH Coalition at the Rainbow PUSH Headquarters, 930 E. 50th St., to argue that the ruling would hurt Black and Hispanic students. They also argued that the ruling failed to consider the effects of decades of systemic racism and discrimination. The faith leaders said that, in the coming weeks, they intend to discuss possible ways to reverse the ruling via federal legislation, including the possibility of urging members of Congress to expand the size of the court.

Rev. Ira Acree, head of Austin’s Greater St. John Bible Church and co-chair of the Leaders Network, told Austin Weekly News, said that Rainbow PUSH invited them to the press conference.

During the June 30 press conference, Leaders Network co-chair Rev. Marshall Hatch Sr., pastor at West Garfield’s New Mount Pilgrim Church, 4301 W. Washington Blvd., argued the ruling ignores the effects of racist practices that reverberate to this day.

“With this decision the Supreme Court rejects any responsibility to repair and remedy the nation’s caste system and sordid racial history,” he said. “Nevertheless, we will never give up the fight for a more perfect union.”

Acree took an even harsher tone. Pointing to the fact that then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked then-President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, he described the current court as a “Trump-packed court.”

“The decision of the United States Supreme Court was evil and it was totally out of step with what this country was supposed to represent, out of step of what our nation claims to be in the Constitution,” he said. “It is so criminal of the United States Supreme Court to strike down affirmative action and disregarding race in the country that was bult on white supremacy. We must do everything in our power to keep the right wing from setting the country back 50 years. This decision calls into question the legitimacy of a Trump-stacked court.”

Acree told Austin Weekly News that Chicago faith leaders plan to meet on July 5 to discuss political solutions to go with the rallies. Doing nothing, he said, wasn’t an option – and he was confident that decision will eventually be reversed.

“We’re going to Washington to march it up, to pray it up and to break it up,” he said. “Too many people have died for this cause. Black and Brown children are dying because of inequity and racism in our country”

The June 29 ruling dealt with two separate, but related cases – Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina, In both instances, the plaintiff was Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA), an organization led by conservative legal strategist Edward Blum. In the Harvard case, the group represented anonymous Asian-American students who alleged that Harvard’s admissions system artificially limited the number of Asian-American admissions, even as the number of applicants and the size of the Asian-American population grew. Harvard acknowledged using race as one of the factors for deciding admissions, but disputed the assertion that the process disproportionately penalizes Asian-Americans.

The University of North Carolina didn’t use race as a factor, using a system that encourages low-income and first-generation students to achieve a racially diverse student body. SFFA represented a group of Asian and white applicants who argued that the system was still racially discriminatory.

Because Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson sat on the Harvard Board of Overseers when the Supreme Court took up the case, she recused herself from the Harvard vote. The recusal didn’t make a difference – in both cases, six justices voted to rule in favor of the plaintiffs.

Igor Studenkov is a winner of multiple Illinois Press Association awards for local government and business reporting. He has been contributing to Austin Weekly News since 2015. His work has also appeared...