Appeals Court Judge Amy Coney Barrett, recently nominated by President Trump for the Supreme Court, might not be the radical, ultra-conservative we all thought she would be. Sure, she is every religious conservative’s dream for a Supreme Court justice, but she might not be all that bad.
Judge Barrett isn’t going to let her religion influence her decisions. I’m going to assume most politically oriented people have heard Senator Dianne Feinstein’s quote in Barrett’s 2017 congressional hearing: “The dogma lives loudly within you.”
What most people might not remember, at least I didn’t, was Barrett’s response: “I would never impose my own personal convictions upon the law.”
One example encompasses her extensive writings on Catholicism and the law, specifically noting that while Barrett affirms that marriage and family are “founded on the indissoluble commitment of a man and a woman,” she recognizes that landmark LGBT+ legal cases are binding precedents that she intends to follow.
Another example that proves her rational division of dogma and law in 2019 includes Barrett upholding a certain Chicago ordinance that prohibits anti-abortion “sidewalk counseling” in front of abortion clinics. As Vice Presidential nominee Kamala Harris said, “One’s faith should never be the basis of supporting or rejecting a nominee.”
One aspect of Barrett’s religious life that may be legitimate cause of concern is her involvement with People of Praise, a community joining multiple churches. What seems to scare people the most is their use of the word “handmaid,” drawing connections to the popular book and T.V. series The Handmaid’s Tale. The connection between the dystopian popular culture reference and the religious group is nonexistent, though.
People of Praise reference “handmaids” when describing a woman acting as a spiritual leader, in allusion to a biblical scripture refering to Mary. And even if the People of Praise community is all too similar to that of a cult, Barrett declared again in her hearing, “It is never appropriate for a judge to impose that judge’s personal convictions… on the law.”
This is in accordance with her regard of conservative originalism. This controversial principle involves interpreting the Constitution based on the intent of the framers and their original understanding of the document. This excludes any consideration of progressive or activist interpretations to push progressive or activist causes.
While it seems this notion may be halting social progress, originalists simply believe social progress should only be achieved through legislation, a congressional duty rather than a judicial one. In response, the Supreme Court and other lower courts should remain nonpartisan when interpreting the Constitution and making rulings on its basis. If the Supreme Court were to be completely nonpartisan in their interpretations, the polarization of the political spectrum might not impede on judicial review as it may for the legislation process in present instances.
The most frightening thing Judge Barrett is accused of, in my opinion, is the possibility of overturning Roe v. Wade. Thankfully this is yet another misconception, as she explained in her congressional hearing that Roe is “clearly binding on all courts of appeals.”
Barrett does maintain that the case is not immune to challenge and may be considered for overturning, revealing in 2016 at Jacksonville University that Roe’s core holdings, the women’s right to an abortion, might not change, but late-term abortions and restrictions on clinics could go into effect. However, I believe she should not be viewed as a significant threat to women’s reproductive rights.
The Constitution was created in order to protect the principles of the Declaration of Independence, not allowing the government to infringe upon our rights. She plans to continue to defend the intent of the framers and examine binding precedent when interpreting the Constitution if confirmed as a justice on the Supreme Court. Therefore, I believe it is safe to say that Amy Coney Barrett will not utterly destroy our civil rights.