Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett fielded an hours-long line of questioning from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday all without taking a single note. The judge speaks plainly and makes the confirmation process look effortless in much the same way she makes juggling a federal judgeship and family life look easy.
“There is a tendency in our profession to treat the law as all-consuming, while losing sight of everything else. But that makes for a shallow and unfulfilling life,” she said. “I worked hard as a lawyer; I owed that to my clients, my students, and myself. But I never let the law define my identity or crowd out the rest of my life.”
Judge Barrett has built a full life for herself, surrounded by her loving husband, Jesse, and their seven children. She’s a pre-eminent legal scholar and a woman of faith whose strength of character should be commended, not derided, by Senate Democrats.
Her faith, however, has been a sticking point for some lawmakers over the years, as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) tried to apply an unconstitutional religious litmus test to the nominee during her Court of Appeals confirmation hearing in 2017.
“The dogma lives loudly within you,” Sen. Feinstein said at the time, apparently commenting on the nominee’s religious background. Faith, however, is certainly not a characteristic that makes one ineligible as a public servant.
Judge Barrett’s faith is not disqualifying now, and it was not disqualifying in 2017 when the Senate confirmed her by a healthy margin to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit – despite Sen. Feinstein’s religious hostility toward the now-appellate judge.
As Sen. Chuck Grassley said this morning ahead of Judge Barrett’s opening statement, there is no place for a religious test in our system of government. “Article VI of the Constitution clearly prohibits religious tests for serving in public office,” he said.
“Attacks on Judge Barrett’s faith disrespect and disrespect the Constitution and demean the confirmation process.” The Constitution explicitly prohibits lawmakers from requiring a nominee to swear allegiance to a specific faith or to renounce their own faith.
The topic is to be avoided altogether, as lawmakers are to review a candidate based on his or her qualifications for the job in question. “[N]o religious Test shall ever be required as a qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States,” reads Article VI.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), during opening statements Monday, reiterated this truth: “As you know, judge,” he said, addressing the nominee, “[T]here’s no religious test to serve on the Supreme Court. Why? Because the Constitution says so.”
Judge Barrett repeatedly has said she will administer justice “without respect to persons,” as her oath requires, and interpret provisions of the Constitution according to their original public meaning, a judicial approach shared by the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
Her approach to the law is simple. As Judge Barrett said during a lecture in 2018, “The text of the Constitution controls, so, the meaning of the words at the time they were ratified is the same as their meaning today.”
It is her judicial philosophy, as well as her sterling legal credentials, that should be up for discussion during the remainder of her confirmation hearings—not her religious affiliation or her religious persuasions.
As Sen. Ted Cruz said Monday during opening statements, the American people need a “direct check” on an out-of-control legislature. Traditionally, that check has been the Supreme Court. That has not been the case, however, as justices increasingly behave like super-legislators, creating law instead of interpreting it.
If Judge Barrett is confirmed to serve on the bench, as she deserves, Americans will be protected from those who would like to see the courts bend the law to certain ideological preferences and the unwelcome religious bigotry that has crept its way into our political culture.
Chris Carr is the 54th Attorney General of Georgia and is a member of the Republican Attorneys General Association.