John Locke and the Fight over Judge Barrett’s Catholicism

Detail of portrait of John Locke (1697) by Godfrey Kneller (Wikimedia)
What the Supreme Court nominee’s critics and defenders alike get wrong about the role of faith in American public life.

NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE T he controversy over the Catholic faith of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett has exposed a fierce argument underway over the nature of American democracy. Two myths about the historical relationship of religion to liberal values — freedom, equality, justice, tolerance — are competing for dominance. Both must be resisted. For if the United States was not founded as a Christian nation, neither was it the product of a secular Enlightenment.

The great political thinker who first navigated between these two extremes was John Locke. Locke is considered one of the fathers of the liberal project, and his work influenced the

Joseph Loconte is the director of the Simon Center for American Studies at the Heritage Foundation and a senior fellow in Christianity and culture at the King’s College in New York City. He is the author of God, Locke, and Liberty: The Struggle for Religious Freedom in the West.

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