Senator Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) slammed Democrats on Monday for what he termed their attempts to “bring back religious tests” for judicial nominees, during the opening hearing for Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett.
In 2017, ranking Senate Judiciary Committee member Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) said during the judge’s previous confirmation hearing that it was “of concern” that Barrett’s Catholic “dogma lives loudly within you.” Senator Kamala Harris in 2018 questioned a different judicial nominee, Brian Buescher, on whether his membership in the Catholic Knights of Columbus would “interfere” with his judicial rulings.
During the Monday hearings, Hawley condemned these and other instances of judicial nominees being questioned about their faith.
“This is an attempt to broach a new frontier, to set a new standard—actually, it’s an attempt to bring back an old standard that the Constitution of the United States explicitly forbids,” Hawley said. “I’m talking about a religious test for office.”
Hawley added that Senator Feinstein, in Barrett’s 2017 hearing, employed “the very terminology of anti-Catholic bigotry current in this country a century ago. She wasn’t alone. Other senators on this committee [in 2017] asked you if you were an ‘orthodox’ Catholic.”
In a reference to Senator Mazie Hirono (D., Hawaii,) Hawley said, “Another senator said she worried you would be a ‘Catholic’ judge if you were confirmed…I guess as opposed to an American judge.”
Mainstream media outlets have also zeroed in on aspects of Barrett’s faith. A September article in Reuters questioned whether People of Praise, an interdenominational Christian group of which Barrett is reportedly a member, resembled a fictional totalitarian cult in the novel The Handmaid’s Tale.
At the time, Senator Ben Sasse (R., Neb.) slammed the comparison as “QAnon-level stupidity.”
“These ugly smears against Judge Barrett are a combination of anti-Catholic bigotry and QAnon-level stupidity,” Sasse said in a statement. “People of Praise is basically a Bible study —and just like billions of Christians around the world, Judge Barrett reads the Bible, prays, and tries to serve her community. Senators should condemn this wacky McCarthyism.”
Republicans are attempting to confirm Barrett to the Supreme Court before the November elections, which Democrats have vociferously opposed. The appointment of Barrett would give conservatives a 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court bench. During the opening hearing on Monday morning, Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee attempted to paint Barrett’s nomination as a setback for women’s reproductive rights and as a threat to the survival of the Affordable Care Act.