The Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment enshrines one of the United States’ most fundamental principles: the ability to freely exercise religion. Legal scholars have spent their lives studying free exercise jurisprudence, soldiers have made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our free exercise rights, and every American has knowingly or unknowingly availed him or herself of free exercise. In a word, free exercise is hallowed (pun intended).
With that in mind, questioning another’s faith shouldn’t be done lightly. Impugning another’s ability to act in service of the American people because of one’s faith is another matter entirely—one that should be done only in the most deserving of circumstances. And that’s what we have here.
Donald Trump’s latest nomination to the Supreme Court, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, is a prominent member of an extremist Catholic group called People of Praise. An article by Slate written in 2018 when Judge Barrett was being confirmed to her current seat on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals states: “People of Praise members are said to be accountable to a same-sex adviser, called a ‘head’ for men and (until recently) a ‘handmaiden’ for women, who gives input on a wide variety of personal decisions. They swear ‘a lifelong oath of loyalty’ to the group.”
An article published by The Guardian Saturday details the story of a former member of People of Praise who stated “The brainwashing and the groupthink, the female subjugation of being there to serve and listen to your spiritual head. It was so devaluing. To me, it instilled such problems.”
The article goes on to quote Thomas Csordas, who is an anthropology professor at the University of California, San Diego. He stated that he thinks it’s wrong to focus on whether to call People of Praise a “cult,” and instead that an examination of the group’s community structure and nature is more important. His conclusion? “‘I think they’re potentially more dangerous and much more sophisticated [than a cult] . . . It is not the kind of group where submission of women to men means that they have to stay barefoot and pregnant. Instead, they have to be lawyers and judges and submissive to men at the same time.”
Judge Barrett openly questions the need to adhere to judicial precedent, despite judicial precedent being the keystone of the American common law system. Together, Judge Barrett’s faith-based allegiances and her hostility to judicial precedent more than merit scrutiny—they make her grossly unfit to sit as one of the nation’s highest goalkeepers. The Free Exercise Clause may permit Judge Barrett to be a member of People of Praise, but it is clear that her particular cocktail of beliefs would be poison to society’s best interests.
Elections have consequences. We must elect Joe Biden to give the Senate the worst chances possible of confirming Judge Barrett to the United States Supreme Court.