Who is Judge Amy Coney Barrett?

Why We Must Call Her by Her True Name

As American liberals await the remaining Senate Republican announcements on whether or not they will bless the Supreme Court nomination process, everyone to the left of center needs to sit back and think for a moment about these Republicans; who they truthfully are, by name, by definition.

That is if we want to know the reasons behind their decisions.

For example, who, exactly, is Senator Mitt Romney, beyond the putative final holdout candidate that just this morning, on September 22, 2020, blessed Mitch McConnell with an all but guaranteed 51-vote majority to pursue the latest SCOTUS nomination process?

Who is he, other than the love affair who continues to elude many liberals, the equivocal liberal-ish cum conservative, who voted to impeach President Trump?

Romney is, like all other moderate Republicans who gave their stamp of approval to McConnell and President Trump, absolutely who we thought he was. No need to dwell on any element of surprise.

(Ditto for Senators Ben Sasse, Tim Scott, Bill Cassidy, and John Neely Kennedy, who could all theoretically still oppose McConnell’s crusade).

As it currently stands, however, with a Romney blessing, the countdown has officially begun: 100 days until the new year, 42 days until the election, and four days until Friday when Donald Trump will announce his nominee.

Four days until Americans will likely meet Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a circuit judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals in the Seventh Circuit, the seat to which Trump appointed her just two years ago.

So, for the time being, we must lean forward and look closely at Judge Amy Coney Barrett; her religious beliefs and the influence those beliefs weigh on her jurisprudence.

A summa cum laude Notre Dame graduate, an academic, an avowed Roman Catholic, and a mother of seven, including two adopted children from Haiti and a young son with Down syndrome, Amy Coney Barrett, at 48, would be the youngest to serve on the Supreme Court.

She and her husband are known to be generous in the community, at the schools their children attend. But noting her biography holds no sway in a political appointment to the Supreme Court, unless, of course, her personal beliefs intertwine with her professional ones.

Before focusing on her judicial record, it is important to note her history.

Notably, her involvement with People of Praise, a group grown out of the Catholic charismatic revival movement in the 1960s, which eventually incorporated Pentecostal practices such as speaking in tongues, belief in prophecy, and divine healing, is suspect and deserves scrutiny.

It is difficult to divorce these barbaric practices with the law in Ms. Barrett’s case. It seems she — and so many other judges groomed by the Federalist Society, the conservative and libertarian legal group — feels it necessary to dogmatically practice beliefs like these, which are supposedly matters between man and God, as political ideas to be incorporated into law.

One of the many premises of Christianity, that a devotee determines her wishes and God’s to be as one, preordained and inseparable, which is in direct conflict with the first clause in the secular Bill of Rights, which states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” is a conflict of interest.

Therefore, it becomes problematic to divorce Ms. Barrett’s religious convictions from the law she practices, because it is principally her religion that influences her decisions.

It is important to note here that when asked about his Catholic faith and if it would conflict with his responsibilities as a justice, the late Justice William Brennan reaffirmed he would be governed by “the oath I took to support the Constitution and laws of the United States.” Ms. Barrett observed that she did not “Defend this position as the proper response for a Catholic judge to take with respect to abortion or the death penalty.” Death here = euthanasia. Not only did she reveal her religious position by conflating judge and “Catholic judge,” but she did so by nauseously equating pregnancy termination with euthanasia.

In light of these past comments, it is contended that Ms. Barrett’s conservatism is rooted in her jurisprudential commitments. But that is a misleading observation. Sure, conservatism and religion may be bedfellows, but it appears to be that her religiosity, not conservatism, is embedded in her jurisprudential commitments. Seemingly unable to separate Catholicism from the secularity of the law, Ms. Barrett’s admission is astonishing and deserves intense scrutiny if and when the hearings in the Senate chambers begin.

But would her comments, so charred with religious overtones, interfere with her jurisprudential responsibilities?

As a former clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia and as a jurist, Ms. Barrett has established herself as a conservative textualist and originalist, someone who interprets the law in its plain words and according to the original drafters and ratifiers of the Constitution.

Crowned by right-wing legal activist Carrie Severino in a National Review article as a “champion of originalism,” Ms. Barrett has been a staunch proponent of forced birth in the guise of state’s rights, has been an opponent of the Supreme Court’s sustaining provision on the Affordable Care Act, a defender of Trump’s enforcement of the “public charge” rule, and a threat to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Abortion: In a 2018 case, a three-judge panel (Ms. Barrett was not on the panel) ordered a rehearing on a case involving an Indiana state law that would have required fetal remains to be buried or cremated after an abortion, but then vacated the order and reinstated the original opinion blocking the state from having that control, saying it conflicted with Supreme Court precedent. Though the state chose not to pursue an appeal, Ms. Barrett joined Judge Frank H. Easterbrook in a dissenting opinion regarding a separate provision of the law that had not been an issue in the rehearing proceedings. The provision would bar abortions based on race, sex, and disability. She and Judge Easterbrook claimed it was a means of “using an abortion as a way to promote eugenic goals.” Indiana later went to the Supreme Court but did not weigh in on her dissent, leaving the state unable to enforce that provision.

In other words, even though there had been Supreme Court precedent, she went ahead with her dissent and saw to it that it made its way to the highest court in the land. To argue that Ms. Barrett dissented on anything other than religious grounds concerning abortion would be an understatement.

In 2019, she asked the full 7th Circuit to challenge an Indiana court ruling that young women seeking an abortion were not required to notify their parents before having the procedure.

To her credit, in 2019, Ms. Barrett joined an opinion that upheld a Chicago ordinance barring anti-abortion “sidewalk counselors” (fanatical men and women screaming disparaging remarks in attempts to shame) from approaching those women entering an abortion clinic.

But will there be a clinic for these “counselors” to picket if Ms. Barrett’s states-rights approach to abortion shuts them all down?

Affordable Care Act: Though it occurred before she joined the appeals courts, Ms. Barrett was critical of Chief Justice John G. Robert Jr.’s opinion in 2012 sustaining a central provision in the ACA, saying he betrayed the commands of textualism. “Chief Justice Roberts pushed the Affordable Care Act beyond its plausible meaning to save the statute,” she wrote.

Under threat of conjecture, one could conceptualize, after two stints in the Federalist Society, and with an appointment from Donald Trump to a pendulously conservative-leaning Supreme Court (both Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh are associates of the Federalist Society), that her opinion remains unchanged since 2012. To make matters worse, the Supreme Court is taking another ACA case in November. With her on the bench, one could surmise the consequence of her presence.

(Ruminate for a moment on three Federalist Society judges on a Supreme Court. After years of lobbying, the Society has realized not once but twice, their ultimate goal: force the Supreme Court to the fringe libertarian Right in a country that is otherwise majority socially liberal. Sending a third to the bench is a milestone this country cannot afford).

“Public Charge” Rule: The “public charge” rule bars noncitizens from receiving a green card if the government believes they are likely to rely on public assistance. Though a district court put the Trump administration ruling on hold, the Supreme Court issued an emergency order to sustain the law while appeals were pending. Ms. Barrett rejected the challengers’ appeal and stated, it is “not unreasonable to describe someone who relies on the government to satisfy a basic necessity for a year…as falling within the definition of a term that denotes a lack of self-sufficiency.” Ms. Barrett would go on to claim the appeal as a policy dispute.

But reducing an ethical and moral argument to a policy dispute seems to replicate the myth of the welfare queen — bottom-feeder, moocher — a favored Republican refrain. Perhaps one needs to be a social democrat to appreciate this position, but when will the confusing American immigration system, the erratic nature of monopolistic capitalism, and the outsized influence of wealth inequity and its effect on immigrants play into a statute such as this?

Title VII: See: EEOC v AutoZone, in which a three-court panel ruled for AutoZone. In denying a rehearing, Ms. Barrett reasoned that it permissible for AutoZone warehouses to be separate as long as they “really are equal.”

***

Without being too presumptive, Amy Coney Barrett, if confirmed, has the privilege of being only the fifth woman in Supreme Court history, and she deserves our respect and admiration for this rare opportunity.

Unfortunately ironic, however, is that by the Senate confirming such a milestone, she will use her judicial authority to fight against the momentous rights women have won over the decades. It also will not go unnoticed that she would replace the very trailblazer who can claim credit for many of the existing laws regarding the autonomy many women enjoy over their bodies, Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

In what is going to be a bruising battle during the all but guaranteed confirmation hearings, one should call to mind the instruction Rebecca Solnit divulged on calling things by their true names, at least to help shape the dialogue around Amy Coney Barrett. Solnit wrote, “To name something truly is to lay bare what may be brutal or corrupt… Once we call it by name… the revolt against brutality begins with a revolt against the language that hides that brutality.”

When Republican Senators (yes, even the Murkowski’s and the Collins’s) and the President introduce Judge Amy Coney Barrett as a strong conservative judge, they mean a religious-minded justice determined to incorporate Catholicism in her judgments. Especially in her effort alongside the 50-year radical evangelical pursuit to ensure forced birth for millions of women.

They mean she will be precisely what she claims to be: A Catholic Judge. She will continue the decades-long Republican strategy to tear down the wall of separation of church and state that Thomas Jefferson built.

It is vital, at least from a Leftist or liberal perspective, and at minimum a doctrine of honesty, to not only label Judge Amy Coney Barrett as a Catholic activist and apologist, as a fringe conservative possibly unwilling or unable to separate her religious beliefs from a secular constitution and Bill of Rights and statutes, but to label the very legislators who see to it that she is the newest member of the Supreme Court as partisan hypocrites and religious zealots hellbent on assuring the 165-plus million women in America that they will no longer have autonomy over their bodies.

Given that the Supreme Court is the highest in the land, it is only proper to call Judge Amy Coney Barrett by her true name and put it lucidly: a threat to American liberalism.

Reading, writing, trying.

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