Nominated by President Trump for a seat on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, University of Notre Dame law professor Amy Coney Barrett was brought before the Senate panel to give a breakdown of her legal philosophy. But what unfolded was a grilling over her Catholic principles.
In the lead-up to the hearings, Barrett was criticized for previously written work, examining the collisions between Catholic principles and established case law. A bloc of left-wing activists, including the Alliance for Justice (AFJ), asserted Barrett "would put her personal beliefs ahead of the law" in cases where the two conflict.
"Stunningly, Barrett has asserted that judges should not follow the law or the Constitution when it conflicts with their personal religious beliefs," the group argued.
Based upon a reading of Barrett's own work, these allegations are legally unsound. She has explicitly stated that "judges cannot — nor should they try to — align our legal system with the Church's moral teaching whenever the two diverge." Barrett maintains judges should recuse themselves in cases where their religious beliefs run counter to their judicial responsibility.
The activist detractors' position has also been soundly refuted by legal analysts. Still, certain members of the Senate Judiciary Committee echo their claims.
Referencing a 1998 law review article, "Catholic Judges in Capital Cases," California Sen. Dianne Feinstein pressed Barrett on the depth of her faith, insinuating that her Catholic principles would compromise her ability to rule fairly.
"When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you," Feinstein, the panel's ranking Democrat, quipped. "And that's of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for, for years in this country."
"It is never appropriate for a judge to apply their personal convictions, whether it derives from faith or personal conviction," Barrett answered.
But doubting Democrats were not satisfied; other senators also raised doubt over Barrett's faith.
Senate Minority Whip Dick Durban, a self-described Catholic and one-time pro-life advocate, singled out Barrett's use of the term "orthodox Catholics" as unfair to those who support abortion.
Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono echoed Feinstein's concerns. "Ms. Barrett, I think your article is very plain in your perspective about the role of religion for judges and particularly with regard to Catholic judges."
Minnesota Sen. Al Franken suggested Barrett was unfit to serve on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, based upon the fact that she appeared before a gathering of Christian religious liberty legal group Alliance Defending Freedom (recently branded a "hate group" by the discredited Leftist activist group the Southern Poverty Law Center).
In response to this line of questioning, Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse referenced the Constitution's religious test clause, which "prohibits the imposition of religious scrutiny against public officials."
"I think some of the questioning that you have been subjected to today seems to miss some of these fundamental constitutional protections we all have," Sasse observed.
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