I don’t have a law degree, and I make a living doing consulting — some of it political. These are among the many objections senators and critics would rightly raise were I to be nominated to the Supreme Court.
And now, courtesy of California Sen. Dianne Feinstein and the New York Times, we have yet another objection that would be raised: I’m a practicing Catholic.
This last objection I am not so wild about. In fact, I feel it is downright unfair and un-American.
The Constitution explicitly rejects religious tests for public office. Feel free to Google it if you doubt me. It’s right there in Article VI, which explains that the whole panoply of America’s elected representatives and appointed judges “shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation to support this Constitution.”
And then comes the all-important “but”: “…but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
The text is not at all hard to understand. The Constitution was to be the supreme law of the land. Thus the name Supreme Court. But the people’s religious freedom was so important that the state could have no say in the matter, even when it came to choosing its own officers.
Apparently, nobody told that to Sen. Feinstein. Sounding a bit like a science fiction movie villain (honestly), she complained “the dogma lives loudly within you” to a nominee for Chicago’s 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The dangerous “dogma” that raised red flags in confirmation hearings was the Catholic faith of law professor Amy Barrett. Fellow Senate Judiciary Committee member Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch – a Mormon – took umbrage at his colleague’s locked-and-loaded words. He rightly called them out as an attempt to impose a “religious test” on public office.
That ought to have been the end of the matter but now the New York Times has lent its fake neutral reporting voice to casting doubts on Barrett again, beginning with the title, “Some Worry About Judicial Nominee’s Ties to a Religious Group.”
You might think that the religious group in question was the Catholic Church, but no! It turns out Barrett is very likely also a member of a Pentecostal-flavored ecumenical group – meaning it includes Catholics and Protestants and perhaps other Christians – called “People of Praise.”
It’s hard to make an organization with a happy-clappy name like People of Praise sound sinister, but the Times tries its best.
Some of the female leaders in the group are even called “handmaids,” the article begins, sounding ominous Margaret Atwood notes. The story eventually fesses up to the fact that this is not, strictly speaking, true. People of Praise scrapped the title because they didn’t like how it sounded, opting instead for the title “female leader.”
So much of the story reads like a huge reach – advocacy with a thin veneer of reporting. Why, one disgruntled former member claims the group is too controlling! And one cherry picked law professor says that Congress should hold hearings!
And of course the last word is given over to Cathleen Kaveny, a law professor who championed the Obama administration’s religious conscience-burdening healthcare mandates and who recently defended Sen. Feinstein’s indefensible words in the Washington Post.
Kaveny notes Barrett’s association with a People of Praise school and wonders, “We have to disclose everything from the Elks Club to the alumni associations we belong to – why didn’t she disclose this?”
Nominee Barrett didn’t disclose it because the Senate doesn’t ask nominees to list their religious associations. And it doesn’t ask that question for a darned good reason. Surely a law professor knows this, and surely the New York Times ought to.
But let me spell it out for them, just in case: “no religious Test shall ever be required.” It’s right there. In the Constitution. An important part of my religious freedom, and yours, and certainly Sen. Feinstein’s, depends on it.
Maybe Sen. Feinstein’s correct that “the dogma” does in fact live loudly within Barrett, or maybe not. You know what? It’s none of the government’s business.
Patrick Hynes, president of Hynes Communications, lives in New Hampshire.
As appeared in the Washington Examiner