One of the individuals on Donald Trump’s shortlist to replace Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy is United States Judge Amy Coney Barrett. According to the New York Times, Barrett belongs to the evangelical group People Of Praise. Members of the group must swear a lifelong loyalty oath and believe husbands should rule over wives.
Barrett is also a member of the conservative Federalist Society which is “a conduit for judicial nominees to the Trump White House. More than 70 law professors across the country signed a glowing letter of endorsement. A separate letter of endorsement was signed by all of her fellow faculty members.”
During her Senate confirmation to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago in 2017, Barrett said she was a faithful Catholic and told senators that her faith wouldn’t interfere with her job as an appellate judge. However, the fact that Barrett belonged to People Of Praise never came up during the confirmation process. If it had, Barrett might have faced more intense scrutiny.
The Times reports:
Some of the group’s practices would surprise many faithful Catholics. Members of the group swear a lifelong oath of loyalty, called a covenant, to one another, and are assigned and are accountable to a personal adviser, called a “head” for men and a “handmaid” for women. The group teaches that husbands are the heads of their wives and should take authority over the family.
Current and former members say that the heads and handmaids give direction on important decisions, including whom to date or marry, where to live, whether to take a job or buy a home and how to raise children.
Legal scholars told the Times that such loyalty oaths raise questions about a judge’s impartiality and independence. The scholars said there is no religious test for nominees, but the oath taken by Barrett could be problematic.
Sarah Barringer Gordon, a professor of constitutional law and history at the University of Pennsylvania said, “These groups can become so absorbing that it’s difficult for a person to retain individual judgment,” and “I don’t think it’s discriminatory or hostile to religion to want to learn more” about her relationship with the group.
People of Praise’s leader, Craig S. Lent, the group’s leader says the religious group neither “nefarious” nor “controversial.” He would not, however, confirm or deny Barrett’s membership status.
Lent said, “We don’t try to control people. And there’s never any guarantee that the leader is always right. You have to discern and act in the Lord.”
“If and when members hold political offices, or judicial offices, or administrative offices, we would certainly not tell them how to discharge their responsibilities,” Lent added.