Some Worry About Judicial Nominee’s Ties to a Religious GroupObviously, Senator Feinstein’s concerns about Professor Barrett’s biases are completely different from even any hypothetical skepticism about long-time U.S. State Department honcho Dennis Ross’s unquestionable right to serve as “Israel’s lawyer” during Middle Eastern negotiations at American taxpayers’ expense.
By LAURIE GOODSTEIN SEPT. 28, 2017
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.
The nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, a law professor up for an appeals court seat, had raised the issue herself in articles and speeches over the years. The Democratic senators on the Judiciary Committee zeroed in on her writings, and in the process prompted accusations that they were engaged in religious bigotry.“The dogma lives loudly within you,” declared Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, in what has become an infamous phrase. …
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. …
Ms. Barrett was questioned in particular about a 1998 scholarly article in which she and her co-author argued that sometimes Catholic trial judges should recuse themselves from the sentencing phase of death penalty cases.