Senate Democrats Use Judge Nominee As Catholic Punching Bag

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“… no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

—  United States Constitution, Article VI, Section 3


“Do you consider yourself an orthodox Catholic?”

“I am a Catholic, Senator Durbin.”


One of the ways you know our society is falling apart is when ancient social conventions are casually disregarded. One of them, for a long time now, is that we don’t challenge each other’s religion when it comes to public office.

It’s unconstitutional, of course, as you can see above. But it’s also bad form. Religion is irrelevant to someone’s ability to do the job — but even worse, challenging someone on his religious beliefs shakes our confidence that at some level, whatever our disagreements, we’re all in this together.

Witness the questioning of Amy Coney Barrett, a law professor at Notre Dame whom President Donald Trump has nominated to be a federal appeals judge, during a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday.

Barrett has seven kids. She has written and spoken about her interest in Roman Catholic teachings. These are dog whistles for Democrats, who think they sniff a vote against Roe vs. Wade if she is ever nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Left-wing groups have raised questions about possible conflicts between her faith and applying the law fairly.

So Senator Chuck Grassley, the Republican committee chairman of Iowa, asked her:

“When is it proper for a judge to put their religious views above applying the law?”

Barrett’s answer:  “It’s never appropriate for a judge to impose that judge’s personal convictions, whether they derive from faith or anywhere else, on the law.”

You’d think that have settled it. But not for Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California), who said:

“You are controversial. Let’s start with that. You’re controversial because many of us that have lived our lives as women really recognize the value of finally being able to control our reproductive systems. And Roe entered into that, obviously. I listened to your answers to Senator Grassley’s question and it leaves me a bit puzzled. Because you have a long history of believing that your religious beliefs should prevail.”

Feinstein offered no examples.

Later, Barrett said that as an appeals court judge she’d consider every Supreme Court decision as binding precedent, including Roe vs. Wade.

Again, not good enough.

Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) sounded worried about Barrett as at one point she noted “you would be a Catholic judge.”

Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), a Catholic who began his career in Congress as pro-life before switching to the other side, sounded uneasy as he quizzed Barrett on the nature of her commitment to her religion. (See above.)

But Feinstein said the most. During a second round of questioning, Feinstein wiped off the veneer of respectability.

“Why is it that so many of us on this side have this very uncomfortable feeling, that, you know, dogma and law are two different things. And I think whatever a religion is, it has its own dogma. The law is totally different. And I think in your case, Professor, when you read your speeches the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for for years in this country,” Feinstein said.

“Dogma” means a set of principles declared to be true by an authority. But its most common usage is in the Roman Catholic Church.

Call it a dogma whistle:  Feinstein seems to be saying that if you take your Catholic faith seriously, you are therefore unable to apply the law faithfully. That is a religious test for judges.

But Feinstein said something else that isn’t getting as much attention, and that may be yet more shocking.

She noted that judicial nominees almost always imply to the Judiciary Committee that they plan to follow court precedents, and then once confirmed many of them rule differently once they’re on the bench. Then she continued with a jaw-dropper.

“You’re under oath. And I assume people mean what they say,” Feinstein said. “But over time we learn to also judge what they think. And whether their thoughts enable them to be free to observe the law.”

Whether their thoughts enable them to be free to observe the law?

What thoughts are those?

Would they be … Catholic thoughts?

As in:  Catholics who take their Catholic faith seriously really have no place in the legal system, because they are unable to follow the law?

This is the sort of thing you expect to read in history books about Know-Nothings.

Are we still one country?