Tag: scrutinized

Amy Coney Barrett scrutinized over religion vs. law

Second of two parts.

Professor Amy Coney Barrett, addressing law school graduates at Notre Dame University in 2006, delivered a stark admonition to the future lawyers: She told them a law career was “but a means to an end.”

“That end is building the kingdom of God,” she said. “If you can keep in mind that your fundamental purpose in life is not to be a lawyer, but to know, love and serve God, you truly will be a different kind of lawyer.”

As confirmation hearings begin Monday for Judge Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court, she will have to answer just how different a lawyer — and judge — her faith has made her.

To her detractors, she is a “Catholic judge.” To her supporters, she is a judge who is Catholic.

The difference between those views dominated her confirmation hearing three years ago, when she won a seat on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The hearings this week are shaping up like a rerun, with Judge Barrett’s faith the chief question before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“If you’re asking whether I take my faith seriously and am a faithful Catholic, I am, although I would stress that my personal church affiliation or my religious belief would not bear in my discharge of duties as a judge,” Judge Barrett told senators in her October 2017 hearings.

That answer was unsatisfactory to Democrats, and they peppered Judge Barrett with pointed questions.

Republicans said the questioning was so unseemly that it began to look as if they were applying a religious test for seeking a federal office, which the Constitution specifically prohibits.

Democrats countered that the matter wasn’t about Judge Barrett’s faith, but rather how much it affects her public life.

“The dogma lives loudly within you,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the committee.

The judge opened the door to the issue herself in 1998 with a law review article titled “Catholic judges in capital cases.”

She suggested that an “orthodox Catholic” who adhered to the church’s teaching against capital punishment should recuse from signing an execution order.

Her critics said she was putting faith above the law. Her backers said she was doing just the opposite: saying faith must give way when the law calls for an outcome.

In fact, she was charting a middle ground, where a judge could be faithful to her own beliefs while allowing someone else to carry out the law’s obligation.

“Judges cannot — nor should they try to — align our legal system with the Church’s moral teaching whenever the two diverge,” she concluded. “They should, however, conform their own behavior to the Church’s standard.”

In a speech last year to Hillsdale in D.C., the Washington campus of Hillsdale College, Judge Barrett delved deeper into the matter by saying it was folly to think only Catholic jurists grapple with their moral codes and their duties to the law.

“That’s not a challenge just for religious people. That’s

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