The fact that Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett "served as a ‘handmaid’ in Christian group People of Praise," in the words of The Washington Post, is a thing. It's a thing that is concerning to a lot of not evangelical or fundamentalist Christian Americans. Republicans are, however, trying to make that a landmine for Democrats, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell leading the way. They're saying any questions about her rather out-of-the-mainstream practice is an attack on faith. They are in fact itching to have a fight about her religion.
But that's eliding a larger problem: Barrett has been actively trying to cover-up her association with People of Praise and her fundamentalist beliefs, and People of Praise have been helping. This is what Democrats need to be focusing on. The Post reports that while Barrett has disclosed "serving on the board of a network of private Christian schools affiliated with the group," People of Praise will not confirm that she is a member. Furthermore, in the last few years it has "removed from its website editions of a People of Praise magazine — first those that included her name and photograph and then all archives of the magazine itself." Why are her ties to the group being scrubbed and who is helping her do that?
That goes along with Barrett's failure in 2017 and again this year to disclose that she had signed on to a newspaper ad in 2006 taking the most extreme position on abortion possible, advocating for the overturning of Roe v. Wade and going further, saying she opposed "abortion on demand" and defended "the right to life from fertilization to the end of natural life." That's leaving the door open for banning types of birth control and for investigation and potential prosecution of women who've had miscarriages, the furthest forced birth extremists tend to go. Of course she doesn't want that information in front of the Judiciary Committee or the American public, which supports abortion rights.
So who's covering it up for her? Is the White House advising her to withhold information? Is the Republican-majority Senate Judiciary Committee staff helping her pick and choose the information senators and the American public get to weigh when considering the nomination? Because it sure seems like a concerted effort, and the kind of thing that raises eyebrows for investigators. What else might she be failing to disclose—and why? This should at least require more time for a more thorough investigation and Democrats should demand that. It's not about her religion: It's about why she is trying to cover up her religion!
Clearly the investigation into Brett Kavanaugh wasn't thorough enough because McConnell and Sen. Chuck Grassley, who was then chair of the committee, wouldn't let it be. They didn't give enough time. That means there are still outstanding questions about Kavanaugh, and big ones. Like who paid his $92,000 country club fees, his $10,500-a-year private school for his kids, his $60,000 to $200,000 credit card debt, and his $1.2 million mortgage before his confirmation hearings. Which is a question for another time and potentially an impeachment investigation when there's a Democratic-controlled Senate. Potentially.
But on this nominee, there needs to be an investigation. The FBI needs to figure out why there was a coordinated effort to cover this information up, why the People of Praise group has been erasing her from existence in their organization, and what else she could be withholding from the committee. It's not about the organization itself: It's about the effort to prevent the Senate and public from knowing. She, and the Republicans, demean the process by hiding things.
There are already serious questions about her fitness to serve. First and foremost, Barrett accepted the nomination in the first place, in these extraordinary circumstances and mere weeks before a presidential election. Then she participated willingly and knowingly in what turned out to be a coronavirus superspreader event that violated the rules the District of Columbia has in place for public gatherings. Yes, the White House is federal land and not governed by D.C.'s ordinances, but it shows an appalling lack of judgement on the part of this would-be justice to participate in the whole fiasco.
But there are also questions about her actual ability to judge. She actually authored a Seventh Circuit opinion last year "that threatened to hurl corporate insurance policies into chaos" and was quickly and quietly withdrawn to allow the lower court judgement she had initially overturned stand. It was an "episode that stunned attorneys and raised questions about her judgment." Because she made an extremely basic and big mistake. She ignored state law, in this case Indiana’s, in her initial ruling. "Her opinion, absolutely, 100 percent, ignored Indiana law with respect to how those things would be decided," one lawyer involved said. "It was the only time in my career where I had to file a brief that raised this point."
It's a given, even among conservatives, that Barrett got this nomination not for her legal qualifications but because of her ideological ones. That's not even debatable in 2020, after the Trump administration and the kinds of judges—even those rated unqualified—he's promoted. What's remarkable is the extent to which Republicans are still committed to covering up her background. That's a problem, and one that gives Democrats absolutely every reason to fight this nomination. Not on religious grounds: on the cover up.