Judicial group launches digital ads opposing ‘religious litmus test’

| September 15, 2017 | 7 Comments

The Washington-based Judicial Crisis Network Sept. 15 launched a 10-day digital ad campaign objecting to a U.S. Democratic senator grilling a Catholic judicial nominee Sept. 6 about what impact her faith would have on her interpretation of the law.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, spurred outrage about possible religious tests for judicial appointees with the questions she put to Amy Coney Barrett, nominee for a seat on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Judicial Crisis Network, a group that describes itself as dedicated to strengthening liberty and justice in America, called Feinstein’s grilling of the nominee “disgusting and repulsive.” The ad, under the headline “Catholics Need Not Apply,” is appearing on YouTube and Twitter and also can be viewed at https://judicialnetwork.com/multimedia.

“This is going to be known as ‘Feinstein’s Folly.’ Her line of questioning reeked of ‘No Catholics Need Apply,’ while ignoring Professor Barrett’s stellar qualifications, experience and fierce commitment to defending the Constitution,” said Carrie Severino, the network’s chief counsel and policy director.

“Feinstein was fundamentally at odds with our constitutional commitment to religious freedom, not to mention politically tone-deaf,” she said in a statement. “More than one out of every five Americans is Catholic, and that includes a growing Latino population. A nominee’s faith should have nothing to do with his or her qualifications to be a federal judge. Period.”

Reaction from Catholic leaders to the Senate hearing for Barrett was swift, with a leading archbishop calling the Senate hearing “deeply disappointing.”

In the hearing, Feinstein not only referred to Barrett’s speeches in the committee hearing, but also to a 1998 article by Barrett, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, about the role of Catholic judges in death penalty cases.

Feinstein did not question Barrett about capital punishment cases, but rather the upholding of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that made abortion legal.

“When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And — that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for for years in this country.”

Barrett addressed this issue early in the hearing, answering a question from Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, by saying: “It is never appropriate for a judge to apply their personal convictions, whether it derives from faith or personal conviction.”

Richard Garnett, also a University of Notre Dame law professor, said Feinstein’s line of questioning seemed to say “because you’re a Catholic, you can’t be believed.”

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, said the hearing was “deeply disappointing” since a number of senators failed to “simply consider the professional achievements of a nominee for the federal judiciary” and instead “challenged her fitness to serve due to her Catholic faith.”

In a broadcast on SiriusXM’s “The Catholic Channel,” New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan decried that “this wonderful woman (Barrett) with impeccable legal credentials who has been nominated by the president of the United States for (a) federal judgeship, was submitted to insulting remarks about her faith.”

In a transcript of his remarks released Sept. 13, the cardinal quoted Feinstein as saying, “You seem to live dogma. Dogma is in your life, so therefore you shouldn’t be a judge.'”

He also quoted Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, telling Barrett: “I understand you are an Orthodox Catholic.” That remark, Cardinal Dolan said, “is kind of redundant when you think about it. You’d like to think every Catholic is orthodox. Like that should disqualify her from office. This is nasty. This is bigoted. And this is, I would maintain, unconstitutional.”

He added: “What if there was a Jewish candidate for the bench, which there are. … There are great ones. And a judge said, ‘Would you allow your Jewish belief to guide you if there were a question about the state of Israel that would come before your court?’ There would be an outrage, and I would be part of the outrage, leading it to defend the rights of the Jewish community.”

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  • Paula Ruddy

    The chickens are coming home to roost. By that I mean, the insistence of many Catholics that civil laws should reflect Catholic doctrine has undermined the trust of other citizens that Catholics can respect the freedom of people who do not believe as they do. JFK as well as many other Catholics in the past were able to convince others that they could be trusted to practice their own religion without incorporating their beliefs into civil law. With the rise of the religious right in Catholicism, it looks like that trust is gone. Too bad.

    • Charles C.

      Dear Paula Ruddy,

      I wish you were right. I wish you were even in the same neighborhood as right. I would be so thrilled to hear of a Catholic Right, well, I can’t think of anything to compare to how happy I would be.

      If you need to see a rise somewhere, it is in the left. Francis is not a moderate, centrist Pope. The US Council of Catholic Bishops is not considered a Conservative group by anyone on the correct side of Marxism.

      Forget, for a moment, the damage they are doing to the faith of the Church and the souls of the laity, look just at their proposed civic policies. Roughly fifty years ago, abortion, euthanasia, and Gay “marriage” were questions which had been resolved by society as a whole. “Don’t do any of them” was the basic civil principle.

      But with the rise of the Left and it’s religious squad,positions have been reversed and the “Catholic Right” has lost on each and demonstrated its lack of influence.

      On every other policy position I can think of, the Pope and the American bishops are calling for action of which Bernie Sanders would approve.

      I honestly don’t know what you are talking about.

      • Paula Ruddy

        Dear Charles, I understand your not knowing what I am talking about. We have tried to talk before to no avail in reaching understanding. But here is another try: starting with the situation “roughly fifty years ago.” Yes. We are in agreement that abortion, euthanasia, and gay marriage were not allowed by law at that time. Shall we also agree that a “leftward” movement is about more personal freedom and a “rightward” movement is about more social control by law? We could also agree the neither is good or bad in itself. Sometimes personal freedom should win in the conflict and sometimes social control should win depending on the goods and the harms at stake. Can we agree on that?
        What happened during the last fifty years is a surge of the leftward movement for personal freedom in life choices–child bearing, marriage, ending of life. I think you are right about that. So what should Catholics do in the face of such a surge? As Catholics they can do either of two things, stay with the settled Catholic doctrine or question it. I’m pretty sure you and I would take different options as Catholics. But as citizens of the U.S., we are both obligated by our constitutional commitment to personal freedom unrestricted by law unless there are very good reasons to restrict it. We are personally free as Catholics to follow our own doctrine, but we must allow other people personal freedom to act otherwise if there are no good reasons to restrict them by law. Do you see that?
        When I refer to the “rise of the Catholic right” I mean many Catholics began to reject the rights of others in personal freedoms that Catholics do not allow, and attempted to insist that there be social control on others by law. As you say, they failed because it appears that a majority of citizens cannot see good reasons to restrict those personal freedoms, for example, gay civil marriage.

        I am saying that when Catholics made this losing struggle, other citizens lost trust in our commitment to the constitutional commitment to restrict personal freedom only when good reasons could be demonstrated. Now having a federal judge, a lifetime appointment, who will try to interpret laws to restrict personal freedom on Catholic principles is a threat to the U.S. commitment to freedom. See what I mean? There are many practicing Catholic judges who can live by their own religion and at the same time uphold the constitution, and maybe the judge in question is one of them. Nevertheless, you can’t blame the politicians appointing her for questioning her closely. They have lost trust.

        I think we could understand each other on this if you can see the distinction between a commitment to Catholicism and a commitment to the U.S. constitution. The commitments are compatible, but distinct. What do you think?

        • Charles C.

          Dear Paula Ruddy,

          Please don’t be a pessimist. While it’s true that we may continue to disagree, I think we have at least a partial understanding of each other. This is the type of conversation that the Church and the country call for, a “Dialogue.” As you can see, there’s not much of that on the pages of The Catholic Spirit; I suspect there’s not much of it anywhere. Our conversations can be a model for others.

          I am a little surprised by how much we agree, especially on our history, and how the “Left” has become more influential in our society and laws than the “Right,” at least in the personal life choices we seem to be talking about.

          Let’s explore some differences, maybe they are smaller than we think.

          Have Catholics changed? No. The change has been, as you point out, that the Left has become more successful in advocating for change. That is an important consideration to me. The Left says “We want to change some big things.” The Catholic Right says “No, thanks, We’ll just let things stay the way they have been throughout most of the world for most of history, and which happen to agree with Church teachings.”

          You write: “When I refer to the “rise of the Catholic right” I mean many Catholics began to reject the rights of others in personal freedoms that Catholics do not allow, and attempted to insist that there be social control on others by law.” I would say that many Catholics resisted the attempts to establish new rights, and that existing laws be followed.

          Pretend we’re talking about some other group dealing with questions which aren’t so emotion laden. In such a situation, if people were suspicious of some group, wouldn’t they be suspicious of the group that is calling for many significant changes practically all at once?

          In our situation, you seem to be saying that people have suddenly lost trust in a group for saying the same things they have said over and over for centuries. That doesn’t make sense. Since you usually make sense, I’ll assume you’re saying something else. Perhaps we agree that the Democrat politicians are saying “We’re in the middle of a societal revolution and we won’t give any power to anyone who doesn’t support our side of it.”

          But if they’re thinking that way, they’re knocking on the door of paranoia and unconstitutional behavior. The unconstitutional aspect is that the Constitution says:

          “. . . but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” (Article VI, Section 3)

          Criticizing Barret for being a faithful Catholic is dangerously close to violating that clause.

          The paranoid aspect of their comments comes from their apparent belief that she will not take her oath seriously but will interject her personal beliefs and place them above the law. There is no evidence of that. Besides, Democrats didn’t mind now Justice Sotomayor’s willingness to rely on her personal beliefs in interpreting the law:

          “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would, more often than not, reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”

          But enough of that, for now. What about your broader Left-Right distinction?

          Traditionally, the Right has been identified with more individual freedom, and the Left with more state control. What’s going on in these cases?

          Start with one example, Gay “marriage.” The “Religious Right” has no problem with a same-sex couple running off and setting up housekeeping. Granted they think it’s sinful, but if they are asked about it from a legal point of view they might bring up domestic violence, earlier deaths, and the attendant social costs, not religious doctrine. But where the Left, and more state control, comes in is that Gays don’t want just the right to live together, they want the state to provide various benefits and recognitions. They want the government to order individuals to treat Gay “marriage” the same way as any other marriage. Reference is made to bakers, florists, photographers, and land owners who are ordered to provide services they don’t want to (sometimes called slavery). Reference is also made to government schools who require children to attend and listen to talks on the legitimacy of such arrangements.

          I AGREE WITH YOU. (About not restricting liberty.)

          Euthanasia and abortion are different. They fall more under your heading of “good reasons to restrict them by law.”

          Where we might disagree is that I believe there are “good reasons to restrict them by law,” solid, non-religious reasons, and you probably don’t. Ah, well, another discussion some time?

          As far as a commitment to the Constitution vs. Catholicism goes, it seems like an apples and wrenches comparison. Catholicism doesn’t require non-believers to live under Church rules. The Constitution requires it’s citizens to live according to it.

          Frankly, the Left (and you) would go insane with fury if we lived under the Constitution as written. The Right has given up hope for such a society, they merely hope for a country that is at least mildly supportive of the Constitution. I don’t think we’ll get there in my lifetime.

          But it’s fun to dream. (That’s the kind of Dreamer I can wholeheartedly support.)

          Thank you for your intelligent and patient observations. I’d like to continue sometime.

        • Charles C.

          I just had another thought spurred by your comment:

          “As you say, they failed because it appears that a majority of citizens cannot see good reasons to restrict those personal freedoms, for example, gay civil marriage.”

          So, what happens if a majority of citizens CAN see good reasons? If a majority can “restrict those personal freedoms” are we OK with that? If not, then why does it matter what the majority thinks?

          By the way, the majority of citizens weren’t in favor of Gay “marriage.” From CBS way back in 2012:

          “Poll after poll shows public support for same-sex marriage steadily increasing in the U.S., to the point where it’s now a majority viewpoint. Yet in all 32 states where gay marriage has been on the ballot, voters have rejected it.

          “It’s possible the streak could end in November, when Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington state are likely to have closely contested gay marriage measures on their ballots.”

          (Those four states voted not to define marriage as between a man and a woman.)

          So, the majority did NOT want Gay “marriage” and they DID see good reasons to not expand government recognition of that arrangement.

          • Paula Ruddy

            I’m sorry if I implied that equal protection of the laws under the 14th amendment depends on majority rule. It does not. It is a protection for minorities. “No state shall … deny to any person within its jurisdiction equal protection of the laws.” Political consciousness does enter into the matter’s coming before the courts though. Enough people considered disallowing gay marriage to be an injustice to get the matter before the courts where the 14th amendment equal protection clause was applied. In the case of Proposition 8 in California, the opposition to gay marriage had every opportunity to bring the good reasons to disallow it to bear and did not bring any evidence of harm to society. How is it just to restrict the freedom to marry when there are no good reasons to do so? No one is forced by law to get married, and Catholics are not forced by law to perform sacramental marriage for anyone. In my view Catholics should live their own religion and as U.S. citizens should respect the freedom of other U.S. citizens to live by their own consciences and benefit by the civil laws. If they don’t, they can expect push back from other citizens.

          • Charles C.

            Dear Paula Ruddy,

            You’re absolutely right about the court decision. And I can’t even estimate the number of times I’ve written something which created an impression I didn’t intend.

            If I may settle on a nit, which really isn’t very important (the definition of a nit?), it doesn’t take a “enough people” to get a matter before a court, it only takes one plaintiff with a half-way decent case.

            In famously (Notoriously?) liberal California, the citizens voted to allow such unions. The Supreme Court also ruled that protections apply in such a case. But note that the court’s ruling was 5-4, and 5-4 decisions are at the mercy of prevailing political winds. It may be that the dissent in that case may become the majority within the next few years. That doesn’t mean the issue will be revisited, but still … It’s not like the 44 unanimous decisions which Obama lost before the Supreme Court in his presidency (Bush had 30, Clinton had 31). In cases like that, the court is saying “No! And that’s final! We don’t want to hear anything like that again.”

            “In my view Catholics should live their own religion and as U.S.
            citizens should respect the freedom of other U.S. citizens to live by
            their own consciences and benefit by the civil laws. If they don’t,
            they can expect push back from other citizens.”

            But isn’t that just what Catholics and nearly every citizen is doing? Allowing others to live under the protection of the laws as they now exist? Catholics aren’t preventing Gays from getting “married,” women from getting abortions, or people from killing themselves who are too weak to raise a gun to their own head or swallow too many pills.

            Even the cases of the baker, florist, et al. aren’t attempts to prohibit people from doing what they want, those plaintiffs are simply saying “I have protections under the Constitution, too, and I want to exercise them.” It seems entirely legitimate to me.

            Thanks again, I appreciate learning from you.