Donald Trump officially announced that he was nominating Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. In the intervening hours we have heard of ton of reasons to support her (okay, actually mainly one) and a bunch of reasons we should not support her nomination. I’m going to try to cut through the noise and separate the wheat from the chaff.
The main reason to support her is that she will help overturn Roe v. Wade and the Affordable Care Act. Okay, those are two reasons. Neither of them are particularly compelling as I have mentioned abortion before and really don’t feel like relitigating it.
Opponents have come up with a ton of reasons. Some are thoughtful and some are stupid. Some question how she could be an effective justice and mother to seven children. That’s stupid. Antonin Scalia had a large family and no one questioned him. So no, that’s stupid. Some have questioned whether she can take the seat considering that she holds beliefs that women should be subservient to men. Well, she’s been a judge, so in the strictest sense this is also stupid, but it does touch on something we will get to shortly.
Of course, the most popular reason is that RBG herself said she did not want this. As much as I am compelled by her and her career, I cannot necessarily stand behind this in the strictest sense either. She was a public servant. She served the public. The public ultimately gets to decide. This is where Mitt Romney offered his two cents. He said that the country is a majority center-right country and as such needed another center-right judge to balance the court.
His statement ignores a number of salient facts. First, the court was already a 5-3 court. So, even if he nominated a centrist judge it would still lean right. Trump could have nominated another liberal judge and it would still lean right. The second salient fact is that Barrett is not a center-right judge. She is an extreme right judge. There is no way anyone could look at American politics and think that that represents the majority of Americans under any circumstances. Finally, we get the fidelity of his initial statement. Is this really a center-right country? A majority of people voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. More people voted for Democrats in 2018 since the beginning of the 21st century. What exactly is his proof that the majority of the country is center-right?
The biggest knock on Barrett is that she is a so-called member of the Catholic Charismatic movement. As a cradle Catholic I feel somewhat qualified to talk about this. Simply put, the very fact that she is a member of any faith is not disqualifying. Anyone that says so is going down a very dangerous road. All that being said, her faith and her beliefs do deserve scrutiny as anyone’s beliefs would.
The charismatic movement is not nearly as popular as it once was. In the latter part of the 20th century is was a growing movement. It took over a youth ministry program I was involved in. Essentially, it encourages Catholics to become more engaged in the liturgy. It does this through more modern and upbeat music that also encourages hand signals and gestures during the performance of these songs. That by itself is perfectly fine.
There are other attitudes and beliefs that can come with it that might not be perfectly fine for a Supreme Court justice. There are some teachings that emphasize that women should be subservient to men, some find the speaking in tongues to be a little disconcerting as well. Some also believe in faith healing and rejecting modern medicine. Those beliefs would run counter to our bedrock principles that everyone is equal under the law and there should be a separation between church and state.
The operative word there is some. There are sects within mainstream churches that believe all of these things. On the other hand, one can attend a charismatic church (there is one in Houston) and simply enjoy the upbeat and modern liturgy without necessarily deviating from traditional Catholic beliefs and teachings. So, it is fair to ask her to articulate her beliefs and how they intersect with the law and constitutional principles. I’d hope you’d ask that of everyone that is nominated.
There will be a lot of noise in the next six weeks. Some of the noise matters and some of it doesn’t. Some noise is generated by well meaning people that just get caught up in every little thing that happens along the way. Some noise is generated by people that are purposely trying to generate noise. We need to be able to see past the noise to identify what’s important. If Barrett holds beliefs that women are not equal to men and that insurance companies can discriminate against people with preexisting conditions then she has no business being on the court. It doesn’t matter whether that’s now, after the election, or ever. If she happens to belong to a movement of Catholicism that sometimes preaches those things then she deserves the opportunity to set the record straight.