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Some worry about anti-Catholic bigotry against 7th Cir. nominee Amy Barrett

Some worry about anti-Catholic bigotry against 7th Cir. nominee Amy Barrett

NY Times joins Democrat innuendo that Barrett’s devout Catholicism may render her unfit.

Notre Dame law professor Amy Barrett has been nominated to the Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. Barrett is a former Scalia law clerk.

Barrett’s nomination hearing in early September generated a lot of attention when Democrat Senators attacked her for being a religious Christian. The National Review reported at the time:

A judicial confirmation hearing this week stoked fears among conservatives that it is becoming acceptable on the American left to voice intensely anti-Christian sentiments.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing for Amy Coney Barrett — a law professor at the University of Notre Dame and President Trump’s nominee to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals — during which two senators, Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) and Dick Durbin (D., Ill.), suggested that Barrett’s Catholic faith might disqualify her from serving as a judge.

“When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you,” Feinstein said. “And that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for for years in this country.” Durbin, meanwhile, criticized Barrett’s prior use of the term “orthodox Catholic,” saying it unfairly maligns Catholics who do not hold certain positions about abortion or the death penalty. “Do you consider yourself an orthodox Catholic?” he asked her outright

Such questioning, which appears to set a religious test, arguably violates Article VI of the Constitution:

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

This questioning of Barrett received a lot of pushback, and not just from Trump supporters. Columnist John Kass wrote in The Chicago Tribune, Durbin, Democrats reveal their bigotry in questioning of judicial nominee from Notre Dame:

There’s something refreshingly honest about those Democrats revealing their bigotry in the halls of the United States Senate.

They did so in questioning Amy Coney Barrett, a law professor from Notre Dame, a Catholic and woman of impeccable academic credentials, who has been nominated to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, a Catholic town….

But among many Democrats and the left, Christian faith does not command respect. It is no longer merely suspect; it is a threat.

Would Democratic senators dare ask such questions of a Muslim or a Jew? No. Their own party would condemn them as would every newspaper editorial board in the country.

The brains of Feinstein and Durbin could not possibly conceive of such a question to someone who wasn’t Christian, lest they burn themselves upon their own secular stake.

But a Christian, a Roman Catholic? Hey, that’s different, isn’t it?

The attack on Barrett continues, with a NY Times article amplifying the anti-Catholic attitude of the Democrats, Some Worry About Judicial Nominee’s Ties to a Religious Group:

One of President Trump’s judicial nominees became something of a hero to religious conservatives after she was grilled at a Senate hearing this month over whether her Roman Catholic faith would influence her decisions on the bench….

Ms. Barrett told the senators that she was a faithful Catholic, and that her religious beliefs would not affect her decisions as an appellate judge. But her membership in a small, tightly knit Christian group called People of Praise never came up at the hearing, and might have led to even more intense questioning.

Some of the group’s practices would surprise many faithful Catholics. Members of the group swear a lifelong oath of loyalty, called a covenant, to one another, and are assigned and are accountable to a personal adviser, called a “head” for men and a “handmaid” for women. The group teaches that husbands are the heads of their wives and should take authority over the family.

Current and former members say that the heads and handmaids give direction on important decisions, including whom to date or marry, where to live, whether to take a job or buy a home, and how to raise children.

Legal scholars said that such loyalty oaths could raise legitimate questions about a judicial nominee’s independence and impartiality. The scholars said in interviews that while there certainly was no religious test for office, it would have been relevant for the senators to examine what it means for a judicial nominee to make an oath to a group that could wield significant authority over its members’ lives.

The NY Times article was seen as the dog whistle that it was. Mollie Hemingway at The Federalist wrote,  New York Times Joins Campaign Against Catholic Judicial Nominee:

The article is written by religion reporter Laurie Goodstein, and is not of her typical caliber. It begins by attempting to exculpate the senators who grilled her by blaming Barrett for their questions. She suggests that they were not bigots but only asking Barrett legitimate questions that arose from her writing. It was really her fault she was asked about the dogma living loudly within her, because she had failed to cleanse all of her scholarship at the University of Notre Dame from mention of religion.

Then the story darkly suggests that she was not being truthful when she said she could be a fair appellate judge, because she’s a member of a group that the senators would have liked to grill her about even more had they known she was a member:

Ms. Barrett told the senators that she was a faithful Catholic, and that her religious beliefs would not affect her decisions as an appellate judge. But her membership in a small, tightly knit Christian group called People of Praise never came up at the hearing, and might have led to even more intense questioning.

Ed Whelan at National Review called the Times article a “Hit Piece”:

Barrett has received stellar reviews from all of her Notre Dame colleagues, other law professors, every single one of her fellow Supreme Court clerks, and her former students. Appeals to religious bigotry aside, there is, in short, no basis for any concern that she lacks the independence of judgment needed to be an outstanding judge….

[NY Times author] Goodstein and her supposed experts never seem to contemplate the possibility that a person who is accustomed to receive and to reflect on (as well as to give) advice in the realm of family life might have developed the faculty of critical self-reflection that well suits the judicial role.

Whelan then went through some of the specific accusations against Barrett, and found them false or misleading. For example:

Another indication of Goodstein’s bias: She falsely states that Barrett at her hearing “backed away” from the position in her 1998 law-review article that (in Goodstein’s words) “sometimes Catholic judges should recuse themselves from the sentencing phase of death penalty cases.” Even worse, she links to a characteristically error-strewn Alliance for Justice attack post (“It’s a Fact: Barrett Misled the Senate Judiciary Committee”) as support for her false claim.

As I’ve explained before (in point 4 of this post), and as law professor Rick Garnett points out in response to Goodstein, Barrett’s article focused heavily on the recusal obligations of trial judges in capital cases and emphasized that the recusal question for appellate judges—the role she would fill—was much more complicated under Catholic moral teaching on improper cooperation.

There also have been other reactions in response to the continuing attacks on Barrett. Somehow I’ve ended up on a lot of mailing lists. The Catholic Association released this statement:

“Notre Dame Law Professor Amy Barrett is an incredibly intelligent woman who is superbly qualified to sit on the federal bench. Finding no flaws in her credentials, critics have sunk to a new low by attacking her faith. The New York Times insinuates impropriety in Professor Barrett’s choice to deepen her faith within a group of other Catholics. With nothing of substance undermining Professor Barrett’s nomination, her opponents are left bashing the rights to religion and association guaranteed by our Constitution.” Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, Legal Advisor for The Catholic Association Foundation.

Leonard Leo, on leave from the Federalist Society and the person believed to be influential in Trump’s judicial selection process, issued this statement:

“Professor Amy Barrett could not be more qualified for the court as her Senate hearing clearly showed. The continued efforts to disqualify her because of her faith will fail, and certain Democrat Senators and media outlets should be ashamed of themselves for sowing this bigotry and divisiveness. ‘No religious test’ for public office under our Constitution means no religious test. I am confident a majority of the Senate agrees.”

Trump has been hitting home run after home run with his judicial nominations. So Democrats apparently are trying whatever they can to damage nominees, including playing on religious bigotry.


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Well I guess when all you have is innuendo and sleaze then that’s all you got. It’s then up to your faithful propaganda arm to gloss over this and run cover for you.

First, they came for the Mormons, and people left, right, and centered cheered. Then, they came for the undiversified Catholics, because they were pro-life and judged people by the “content of their character” (i.e. as individuals). Deplorable.

    MattMusson in reply to n.n. | September 29, 2017 at 3:07 pm

    But there is no persecution of Christians in this county. They just cannot take jobs they are qualified for because they might make moral choices.

A couple of observations…

I’m old enough to remember that prior to and during the JFK presidential race there was a lot of “papist” crap in the air. The rational Left of the time rightfully shot it down. (Those were different times: now we’ve come full circle with the irrational Collective.)

We’re in a time when it is vogue to deplore anyone who adheres to their religion, while at the same time excusing people like Nanny Pelosi or Dirty Filthy Harry Reid who violate the basic tenets of their professed faith.

This is partly the fault of the “brands” involved, who, like the NFL, do not police themselves.

    alaskabob in reply to Ragspierre. | September 29, 2017 at 2:07 pm

    Jack Kennedy would not be welcome in today’s Democrat Party. If history repeated itself it would be an antifa rather than commie Oswald. As for “papist crap”… there was concern… those were the days when having a relative being a priest was thought to give you a less costly pass into Heaven…. Pope John 23 was just beginning to change things within the Church.

Who has used Rags handle? Cone on. Fess up!

    civil truth in reply to mailman. | September 29, 2017 at 2:45 pm

    So unorthodox thought raises suspicions of an invasion by the body snatchers? Is that where political debate today has come to?

She might be a witch you know.

“The group teaches that husbands are the heads of their wives and should take authority over the family.

Current and former members say that the heads and handmaids give direction on important decisions, including whom to date or marry, where to live, whether to take a job or buy a home, and how to raise children.”

Hmmmm. That sounds very disturbing. We shouldn’t allow anybody to be a judge who is a member of a religion that says men are superior to women, that men are the head of the family, and that men get to tell women what they can and can’t do (like drive, for example). We also shouldn’t allow anybody to be a judge who has committed themselves to a theology that requires them to put their religion before the state.

Oopsie, that means no more Muslim judges, but these Dim senators are probably totally okay with that, right?

Dem attacks will use anything they have.

This particular attack implies they don’t have much.


Frankly, this just shows that the Democratic Progressive agenda is built on a ‘house of cards’ and is not supported by the Constitution.

The nerve of some Senators, including Bernie Sander who also pulled this, who think that parts of their agenda are somehow implicitly in the Constitution but isn’t, yet then pull ‘religious test’, which is clearly, explicitly prohibited in the Constitution.

Feinstein is too stupid and un-self-aware to appreciate the irony that, when she made her patently idiotic and prejudiced statement to Barrett about how the “dogma” lives “loudly” within her, she was amply demonstrating how loudly the dogma of Leftist intolerance and smug contempt for religiously devout Americans (excepting Muslims, of course) lives within contemporary Dumb-o-crats.

“NY Times joins Democrat innuendo…”

Who listens besides the already-indoctinated?

This strategy now of anti Catholic attacks certainly sounds like a winning strategy for democrats for 2018. Stupid Republicans get lucky.

This was unedifying, to say the least, but I don’t think the Religious Test clause argument works. That clause clearly does not apply to voters or electors, who may use any test they like in deciding how to vote, and by the same principle it can’t apply to senators in deciding whether to consent to a presidential appointment. Nor, for that matter, can it apply to the president himself in deciding whom to appoint in the first place.

I think the clause’s plain meaning is simply that no formal test may be imposed on an office. So Congress can’t pass a law that judges, before they take office, must abjure the Catholic faith; but if a majority of the senate is anti-Catholic they have every right to vote against every Catholic nominee that comes down the pike, until presidents stop bothering to nominate them any more. and the president certainly has the right not to appoint Catholics to any offices, if he doesn’t want to.

Similarly the fourteenth amendment does not prevent a president from refusing to appoint black judges, or the senate from refusing its consent to such appointments. It merely prevents anyone from enacting a formal rule to this effect.

Dogma could be described as incorporating ones Beliefs into everyday decisions, which we all do. We formulate our morality, our thoughts, our words, our actions into our lives based on our Beliefs – all the time, every day. Sometimes we fail, which we realize, but attempt to ignore or rationalize our failures.

The dogma(s) of Diane Feinstein and Dick Durbin were plain in this line of questions, and that could be seen from far, far away.

Conservative0317 | October 3, 2017 at 11:35 am

Maybe the conservatives should start asking questions of the liberal appointments as to their belief in God, and since many do not believe, disqualify them as being anti-American. Our country is founded on faith in a Supreme Being (God) based upon our founding documents.