Hawley vs. the Know-Nothings

At last. On the first day of Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Republican senators stood up to the anti-religious bigotry of their Democratic colleagues over the disgraceful treatment of Judge Barrett’s Catholic faith.

One of the greatest highlights was Senator Josh Hawley’s impassioned opening statement against the blatant anti-Catholic bigotry that Judge Barrett had to endure.

“When you tell somebody that they’re too Catholic to be on the bench,” Senator Hawley exclaimed, “when you tell them that they’re going to be a Catholic judge, not an American judge, that’s bigotry. The pattern and practice of bigotry from members of this committee must stop. And I would expect that it be renounced.”

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That pattern and practice of unashamed anti-Catholic and anti-Christian bigotry by members of the judiciary committee has been around for a long time, Senator Hawley explained. Over the years, numerous judiciary nominees have been scrutinized by Democratic senators with questions about their faith beliefs, about which religious organizations do they belong to, about what their views are on moral and theological matters like sin and the afterlife.

What any of this has to do with jurisprudence, the legal philosophy of a nominee or their intellectual and professional qualifications as potential jurists is questionable, to say the least.

Senator Hawley even emphasized how Senator Kamala Harris and others have repeatedly questioned the suitability of judicial nominees by invoking their membership to Catholic organizations like the Knights of Columbus.

“65 million Americans are Catholics, and many, many millions more are Christians of other persuasions,” Senator Hawley explained. “Are they to be told that they cannot serve in public office, that they are not welcomed in the public sphere unless the members of this committee sign off on their religious beliefs? I, for one, do not want to live in such an America, and the Constitution of the United States flatly prohibits it.”

Senator Hawley made reference to Feinstein’s infamously inflammatory comment toward Judge Barrett.

Addressing Judge Barrett herself about the incident, Senator Hawley expressed: “When you were last before this committee, judge, for your initial confirmation hearings, the ranking member [Feinstein] referred to your Catholic convictions as ‘dogma,’ that’s a quote, that ‘lives loudly within you,’ picking up the very terminology of anti-Catholic bigotry current in this country a century ago.”

“She wasn’t alone,” Senator Hawley continued. “Other senators on this committee last time asked you if you were an orthodox Catholic. One senator says she worried that you would be a Catholic judge, if you were confirmed, because of your religious beliefs. I guess as opposed to an American judge, as if you can’t be both a devout Catholic and a loyal American citizen.”

The treatment that Judge Barrett has received, especially from the mainstream media, has been deplorable. In the press, there were countless disgraceful stories attacking, caricaturing, and insinuating falsehoods about Judge Barrett’s Catholicism, especially her identity as a charismatic Catholic and her life as a devoted mother of seven children.

Whereas on the first day of the confirmation hearings, senate Democrats acted as if they have learned their lesson, trying to steer attention away from Judge Barrett’s religion and focus instead on healthcare, a closer look shows how they still attempted to ruin Judge Barrett’s reputation by creating a fictional and deliberately negative narrative about her that has no resemblance to reality.

Democrats portrayed Judge Barrett as some evil agent of the extreme-right who hopes to take away health care from every men, women, and child in America. This a remarkable misrepresentation of what she has actually said about Affordable Care Act. True, Judge Barrett has been critical of the elements of ACA that impinged on the religious liberties of employers—and rightly so. Catholic employers were being pressured to provide birth-control coverage in their insurance plans against the moral teachings of their faith, violating their religious liberty. Any American, regardless of their religious beliefs, should resist such attacks on our First Amendment freedoms.

Judge Barrett was also critical of the way that Chief Justice John Roberts’s ruling on ACA imposed a tax penalty on those Americans without health insurance, criticizing the way that he sustained ACA through the penalty of taxing power. Again, that’s a valid criticism. Judge Barrett’s defense of the religious liberties of employers and her critique of the misuse of taxing power should be expected of any dutiful Supreme Court Justice.

No, a closer look at Judge Barrett’s critiques reveal a judge who is not a threat to American lives, but rather, someone who stands up for the constitutional rights of all Americans. And Senator Hawley has done a service to his country in standing up for her.

[Photo credit: Getty Images News]


  • Fr. Daniel Maria Klimek, TOR

    Fr. Daniel Maria Klimek, TOR, is an assistant professor of theology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville.

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