Re “Chief justice championed equality” (Page A1, Sept. 15): For a beautiful example of why the phrase “a mensch of mensches” applies so aptly to the late Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants, let’s look back almost five years. There had just been terrible killings in San Bernardino, Calif., and Paris, apparently committed by perpetrators inspired by or associated with the Islamic State. Donald Trump was the Republican front-runner, and his proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the United States had energized and seemingly legitimized the hate speech of an array of racist and white-supremacist extremist groups. Outright physical attacks on Muslim Americans were proliferating.
In response, on Friday, Dec. 18, 2015, Chief Justice Gants traveled to Malcolm X Boulevard in Roxbury for a special engagement — one that he had requested — at New England’s largest mosque.
He spoke to his audience about their right to practice their religion, free from discrimination, and their right to be protected from acts of violence that might be committed because of their faith or nation of origin. He chronicled the many other religious, ethnic, and racial groups who faced prejudice and worse over the years, on account of discriminatory laws that had been passed to restrict these groups by members of the majority who feared and scapegoated them. And, he said, while the majority gets to speak through legislatures, it’s the job of the courts to provide shelter for those in the minority, including, and especially, when it’s unpopular to do so.
With his reassuring words, Gants offered balm to a community under siege by bigots and embraced our common humanity. That’s what a mensch does. And he did it so well.
The writer is an attorney and an Access to Justice fellow.