No 'dogma': Democrats walk tightrope on Barrett's faith
WASHINGTON (AP) - "The dogma lives out loud within you."
This statement by California Senator Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, is on the minds of Democrats and Republicans preparing for next week's hearings with Supreme Court candidate Amy Coney Barrett.
Feinstein's 2017 remarks when she questioned Barrett - then a candidate for an appeals court - about the impact Barrett's Catholic faith had on her legal views sparked a bipartisan backlash and helped the former law professor to rise quickly as a conservative judicial star.
Three years later, Barrett is back as President Donald Trump's candidate to replace the late Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The nomination poses a politically risky test for lawmakers as they attempt to examine Barrett's views on issues of abortion, access to health care, and gay marriage without breaking the constitution's prohibition on conducting a religious test on civil servants .
"Her religion is immaterial," said Senator Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, but there is no limit to "questioning the very views she has articulated".
At hearings beginning Monday, Senator Chris Coons, D-Del. Said he would focus on Barrett's "public statements, her legal philosophy, and the way in which her publicly expressed views of the judiciary seriously concern me about it." how they could rule as righteousness. "
Republicans are cheerful and predict the Democrats will overwhelm and alienate key voters a few weeks before the November 3rd elections. Determined to avoid the trap, the Democrats recognize the political danger as their presidential candidate, Joe Biden, who is himself a lifelong Catholic and woos voters of the faith.
"God forbid a Democratic senator is persecuting this candidate for her religious beliefs," said Stephen Schneck, a national Catholic co-chair for Biden. "I think it would create a huge backlash that would certainly damage the Biden campaign."
This is all the more daunting given that Barrett's faith has drawn a lot of attention thanks to her previous role as a "maid" in People of Praise, a charismatic Christian community that views men as housekeepers and, as some ex-members say, women as submissive . She and her husband lived in a house owned by the group's co-founders when they were studying law, according to public records.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Says attacks on Barrett's beliefs are a "shame". Democrats, he said, are "so far removed from their own country that they treat religious Americans like strange animals in a menagerie."
Democratic leaders have pledged to focus their questioning elsewhere - specifically, the Affordable Care Act, which will be challenged in court next month, and Barrett's stance on Roe v's landmark abortion ruling. Calf.
"I have no plans to ask them about their personal views or their private religious beliefs or views," Coons, a key ally of Biden, said last week. "I don't expect my colleagues to either."
Feinstein spokesman Adam Russell said Feinstein "plans to focus on the issues and what is at stake for millions of American families if this process continues."
The balancing act could prove difficult.
Fearful of losing the Supreme Court for a generation, the left is calling on the Democrats to oppose Barrett's nomination with all they have. With the upcoming election, however, Democrats are concerned about missteps that could undermine their quest to regain control of the White House and majority in the Senate.
Republicans have preventively disqualified any discussion of Barrett's beliefs.
A Republican on the committee, Senator Josh Hawley from Missouri, asked Senate Minority Chairman Chuck Schumer of New York to make sure the Democrats were not giving oxygen to what Hawley was saying. This is “a long history of anti-Catholic hatred by some in this country. ”
Several Democrats on the committee said last week that it was inappropriate to ask about religion, but avoiding belief altogether could limit her ability to sharply question Barrett on issues she herself explored in decisions and legal writings. Biden's runner-up, California Senator Kamala Harris, will be among the Democratic questioners on the tightrope.
In 1998 Barrett co-authored a law review article stating that Catholic judges must "adhere to their church's teaching on moral issues," suggesting that they may have to reuse themselves in certain death penalty cases. In 2015, she signed a letter with other Catholic women describing "the teachings of the Church as truth," including the "value of human life," beginning with conception and marriage, "based on the indissoluble commitment of one man and one Mrs".
Columbia University law professor Katherine Franke said it would be acceptable to ask Barrett how she would deal with "an irreconcilable conflict between her obligation to religious law and her obligation to secular law." But details of Barrett's beliefs, such as addressing People of Praise, had "a bad smell," Franke said.
At the 2017 hearing, Feinstein told Barrett that there was an "uncomfortable feeling" on the Democratic side and that "dogma and law are two different things." In Barrett's case, she said, "If you read your speeches, the conclusion is that the dogma lives out loud within you."
"And that's a problem when you get to big issues," added Feinstein.
Democrats weren't alone when it came to addressing the faith. Republicans also asked questions about their Catholicism.
Barrett's statement that it is "never" appropriate for judges to use her personal convictions came in response to then-chairman of the committee, Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, who said she was "open about your role and your Catholic faith." " been. He asked them about the adequacy of a judge to "put their religious views above the application of the law".
Both Grassley and Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, asked Barrett about the 1998 article on Faith and the Death Penalty. Cruz said it "obviously matters".
Barrett said she wrote the article two decades earlier as a law student and has no intention of withdrawing from death sentences because of her religion. She said it was "never appropriate for a judge to impose that judge's personal beliefs, whether by belief or elsewhere in the law."
John Gehring, Catholic program director for the liberal group Faith in Public Life, warned Democrats against making the "casual mistake" Feinstein made.
Trying to "refute an anti-Catholic charge," as Republicans have claimed, "is playing on their turf," Gehring said. He urged the Democrats "to continue to focus on the judicial issues and the real moral issues."
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