On Tuesday, Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed as a United States Circuit Judge for the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. A law professor at the University of Notre Dame, Barrett has been widely opposed due to her past statements that judges’ Catholic beliefs should take precedent over the United States Constitution.
Barrett, who once clerked for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, was confirmed with a 55-43 vote, earning votes from two Republicans who support abortion rights and three Democrats: Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Senator Joe Donnelly of Indiana.
The Feminist Majority Foundation wrote a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee expressing opposition to Barrett’s nomination, writing, “The Feminist Majority Foundation has deep concerns about whether, as a judge, Barrett could set aside her personal beliefs concerning abortion–which she has described as ‘always immoral’–in order to decide fairly and impartially cases concerning the constitutional right to access legal abortion as well as other cases involving women’s reproductive health and rights.” Barrett has also stated that Roe v. Wade was an “erroneous decision,” and has also said it is more important for judges to interpret the Constitution as they see it, rather than to comply with precedent.
Referencing a piece that Barrett once wrote about Catholic judges and capital punishment, the Feminist Majority Foundation continued, “We know that Barrett believes that the proper response for Catholic judges ‘faithful to the teaching of their church’ is recusal in capital cases, but in cases involving abortion, Barrett’s position is purposefully left murky. She cites another scholar’s argument that in cases where a judge must follow laws supporting the right to abortion, judges should recuse themselves; but Barrett does not specifically endorse that view.”
Vanita Gupta from the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights stated, “Professor Barrett’s past statement and writings show a strong, personal bias against reproductive freedom and LGBTQ rights.” She went on to say that, “Her record demonstrates a dangerous lack of deference to long standing precedent and judicial restraint.”
In addition to these concerns, Barrett’s ties to a Christian organization has raised many questions. People of Praise, a group that began at the University of Notre Dame, identifies women as “handmaids” and men as “heads” of the household. A representative from this organization, Craig Lent, stated, “We don’t try to control people,” he continued “If and when members hold political offices, or judicial offices, or administrative offices, we would certainly not tell them how to discharge their responsibilities.” Barrett’s connections with this organization were not discussed during the hearing.
Barrett has also been involved with the Alliance for Defending Freedom, an organization identified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center that has supported the forced sterilization of individuals who are transgender. While Barrett has stated that her religious views will not influence her decisions, many organizations fear that she will not support women and the LGBTQ community.
Five of the Trump Administration’s nominees for the U.S. Circuit Court have now been confirmed, and there will be more nomination hearings in the weeks to come.
Media Sources: Washington Times 10/31/17; Huffington Post 10/30/17, 10/31/17; The Hill 10/31/17; New York Times 10/28/17