The truth about Amy Coney Barrett’s association with the People of Praise
Donald Trump announced on Saturday, September 26 that Judge Amy Coney Barrett has received his nomination to succeed the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court. The timing of this nomination has been the source of much discord as Barrett’s potential confirmation would give the Supreme Court’s conservatives a 6-3 majority just prior to a very controversial presidential election. As the clock ticks down to Election Day and conservatives push to confirm Barrett before November, details of the Chicago appeals court judge and Notre Dame law professor’s political and personal beliefs have come under intense scrutiny.
Of particular concern to the public and to Barrett’s fellow lawmakers is her association with a Christian community called People of Praise. Similar to Pentecostal churches, the group believes in prophecies, divine healings, and speaking in tongues (per a 2017 New York Times article). Members of the group reportedly swear lifelong oaths of loyalty, something that legal scholars feel could potentially impede Barrett’s ability to be impartial. Additionally, members are assigned and accountable to a personal advisor (the female version of which was called a “handmaid” up until recently) and the group believes husbands have authority over their wives. At Barrett’s 2017 hearings prior to her confirmation as appeals court judge, Senator Dianne Feinstein questioned whether Barrett could separate her religious beliefs from her legal opinions (via CNN). Today, Barrett’s nomination is sparking renewed interest in the answer to that question. Here is what we know about Judge Barrett’s association with the People of Praise.
Amy Coney Barrett is reluctant to disclose exact details of her involvement
When Amy Coney Barrett was questioned three years ago about her involvement with the Christian group People of Praise, and whether it would influence her legal judgements, she responded that her religious beliefs would have “no bearing on the discharge of my duties as a judge” (via CNN). But her affiliation with a group that adheres to such unorthodox guidelines continues to attract attention today. Barrett’s past reluctance to disclose details of her involvement only fans the flames of curiosity.
On her 2017 Senate questionnaire, Barrett declined to note any religious affiliation at all but did state that from 2015-2017 she was a trustee of Trinity School, an institution founded and run by the People of Praise. The New York Times reports that one must be a member of the group in order to serve as trustee of the school. The Senate questionnaire also asks nominees to list any public speeches they have given and submit recordings or transcripts of them. Barrett stated she gave a commencement address at Trinity School in 2011 but failed to ever supply a copy of the event.
Other members of the People of Praise say Barrett is a member
The New York Times article that dove into details of the People of Praise in 2017 notes that former and current members of the group allegedly confirmed Barrett and her husband, Jesse Barrett, are members, as well as their fathers who reportedly served as leaders in the organization. Also of note, the People of Praise publish a magazine called Vine & Branches in which Barrett had been featured several times. However, mentions of her name were removed around the time Barrett was being considered for her seat on the Court of Appeals. According to CNN, the People of Praise Communications Director Sean Connolly stated, “Like most religious communities, People of Praise leaves it up to its members to decide whether to publicly disclose their involvement in our community.”
Whether Barrett will ever officially do so and whether her involvement will indeed have an impact on her decisions remains to be seen. Her Supreme Court confirmation hearings are set to begin on October 12th (via NBC).
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