Anti-Catholicism made a surprise appearance yesterday at a U.S. Senate confirmation hearing.
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) asked two U.S. Court of Appeals nominees, Joan Louise Larsen and Amy Coney Barrett, what they would do if they thought a decision of U.S. Supreme Court conflicted with the original meaning of the Constitution. Both affirmed they would uphold Supreme Court precedent, a standard response for anyone who understands that judges are bound by the rulings of higher courts.
That didn’t satisfy Senator Feinstein. Pressing Barrett, Feinstein noted that “Dogma and law are two different things. I think, whatever a religion is, it has its own dogma. The law is totally different; in your case, Professor [Barrett], when you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for, for years, in this country.”
To what was the senator referring? Feinstein explained that she was afraid that Barrett “would be a ‘no’ vote on Roe. And that puts a number of us, in layman’s language, in a very difficult position.”
Larsen and Barrett both noted that, as judges for the U.S. Court of Appeals, they would uphold all the rulings of the Supreme Court, and they would not even be in a position to overturn Roe. Both are highly qualified; Larsen is a justice on the Michigan Supreme Court, and Barrett is a law professor at the University of Notre Dame.
Doesn’t matter. The dogma lives loudly within you. Translation: in Senator Feinstein’s mind, faithful Catholics make for problematic judges.
In the same hearing, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) also questioned Barrett, and he specifically asked her point blank, “Do you consider yourself an orthodox Catholic?”
She responded that she takes her faith seriously, and that she considers herself a faithful Catholic, but that would not allow her religious beliefs to dictate the outcome of a case. The job of an appellate court judge involves legal interpretation, not biblical exegesis.
But why would Durbin even ask such a question in the first place? It appears to apply a religious test as a prerequisite for holding a position in government. In our polarized political climate, we should be affirming that people of any religious faith are welcome to participate in the public square.
Catholics aren’t the only ones under the gun. The same thing happened earlier this year to Russell Vought, who was nominated to be Deputy Director for the Office of Management and Budget. He also faced a hostile line of questioning at a Senate hearing due to his evangelical Christian faith. There, Senator Bernie Sanders accused Vought of being hateful and Islamophobic for believing that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation, a standard belief that Christians have held throughout church history.
Make no mistake—if the leaders of the secular establishment think that a nominee’s faith is substantial, not relegated to mere sentiment, they will oppose their participation in the government. But that anti-religious stance has no place in a nation whose Constitution forbids the government from imposing religious tests on public officials.
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