Amy Coney Barrett, Anti-Catholicism, And The Rule Of Law

It isn’t any wonder that Federal Judge Amy Coney Barrett is drawing a lot of scrutiny as she is one of the women on President Donald Trump’s shortlist for appointments to the Supreme Court. And the president has stated on a number of occasions that he plans to nominate a woman.

Judge Barrett is a woman of faith and a devout Catholic. This is all well and good. But she is also a member of an ecumenical group, People of Praise. That in itself shouldn’t be an issue either, but…

The group is described on its website as a “charismatic Christian community,” which typically refers to adherents that have borrowed from Pentecostal practices, like speaking in tongues, prophesying and praying for divine healings. The group encourages its more than 1,700 members to make a covenant to the community, and it also assigns younger members a personal mentor, known as a “head” or “leader.” Until recently, women in those roles were referred to as “handmaids.”

And it is the People of Praise organization that is drawing the negative attention…but Judge Barrett’s defenders see something more in it.

Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., distributed a press release on Tuesday calling criticism of the group nothing more than “ugly smears” that reflect “anti-Catholic bigotry.” Sasse referred to the group as “basically a Bible study.”

Well, first it sounds more than Bible study but it doesn’t sound Catholic either. So I will accept that Sen. Sasse may not like the criticism, but I don’t see it as anti-Catholic. And the left really hasn’t had many issues with accepting Catholics in their fold in 2020 (i.e. Joe Biden).

But Judge Barrett’s background does suggest that the Senate ask a few questions about faith and law and the Constitution.

Her previous writings indicate that she subscribes to originalism – the belief, in the words of Justice Neil Gorsuch, “that that the Constitution’s original meaning is fixed.

…she has stated that she doesn’t believe a judge’s religion or moral code should influence their rulings…

In September 2017, Barrett, then a nominee for the Seventh Circuit, faced scrutiny stemming from a law review article on the death penalty that she co-authored as a law student in 1998. The article suggested that Catholic judges can and perhaps should recuse themselves from cases if there’s a moral conflict. However, the article also said that “judges cannot — nor should they try to — align our legal system with the Church’s moral teaching whenever the two diverge.”

During her tenure as a law professor at the University of Notre Dame Law School, a private Catholic university in South Bend where she spent more than 10 years teaching, Barrett was a member of Faculty of Life, an anti-abortion group, the ABA Journal reported. In 2013, Barrett said at a Notre Dame event that she believes life begins at conception, Notre Dame Magazine reported.

The Constitution is clear on the role of religion and government in the United States. So, if I were a Senator, I would have two very pointed questions to ask Judge Barrett or any SCOTUS nominee. If a case comes before the court where the law is in conflict with your religious beliefs, can you rule based on the law? The second question of course is, if you can’t ignore the conflict between the law and your religion, can you recuse yourself? If the answer to either is no, there is no way to support such a candidate.

Some final thoughts from the first article linked above:

Barrett joined the Seventh Circuit after she was confirmed by the Senate in October 2017. The position is her only experience as a judge. Her relatively short time on the bench could make it more difficult for lawmakers to get a sense of what kind of justice she would be.

She hasn’t been a judge long enough to really have developed what I would call a distinctive judicial voice,” Sanders (Steven Sanders, a law professor at Indiana University), who has been reviewing Barrett’s court opinions and legal writings, told Yahoo News. “And she hasn’t written any attention-getting opinions in prominent cases. Her tenure as a judge has been relatively short to evaluate her in that way. So I think we’re going to have to look to the kinds of things she wrote and said as a legal academic as well.”

emphasis mine

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