Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is coming under fire for her chilling line of questioning of a Roman Catholic judicial nominee during a Senate hearing. President Donald Trump did the unthinkable. He nominated Amy Coney Barrett for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. The problem, according to Feinstein, is not that Barrett is Catholic, but that she is actually committed to her faith.
In the hearing, the senator said, “Dogma and law are two different things. And I think whatever a religion is, it has its own dogma. The law it totally different. And I think in your case, professor, 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 members of people have fought for years in this country.”
Feinstein later confirmed to National Review that the “big issues” she was referring to were abortion rights. And she was not alone among Democrats who see the protection of the unborn as a disqualifying position for a judicial appointment. Dick Durbin (IL) and Mazie Hirono (HI) piled on. Durbin asked Barrett if she considered herself an “orthodox Catholic” and Hirono intimated that Barrett would apply Catholic moral teaching to decide cases.
So, for leading Democrats, it’s okay to have a set of religious beliefs. But you can’t let them inform your policy and decisions if you are to serve as a judge.
John Jenkins, a priest and president of the University of Notre Dame, was quick to respond. He fired off a letter to the senator, which said, among other things, “It is chilling to hear from a United States Senator that this might now disqualify someone from service as a federal judge. I am one in whose heart ‘dogma lives loudly,’ as it has for centuries in the lives of many Americans, some of whom have given their lives in service to this nation.” Jenkins continued, “Indeed, it lived loudly in the hearts of those who founded our nation as one where citizens could practice their faith freely and without apology.”
Christopher Eisgruber, president of Princeton, wrote to Feinstein: “The questions directed to Professor Barrett about her faith were not consistent with the principle set forth in the Constitution’s ‘no religious test’ clause.”
Harvard Law School professor Noah Feldman agreed. “If a Catholic senator had asked a Jewish nominee whether she would put Israel before the U.S., or if a white senator had asked a black nominee if she could be an objective judge given her background, liberals would be screaming bloody murder. Feinstein’s line of questioning, which was taken up by other committee Democrats, is no less an expression of prejudice,” he said. Feldman continued, “The solution here is for Feinstein to do what other public officials have done when they’ve expressed bias: She should acknowledge that her questions resonated with historic anti-Catholicism, retract them and apologize.”
I agree. The continued attack on people of faith, coming on the heels of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ attack on Russell Vought over his evangelical faith, during his nomination process as deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, must stop.
It seems it is now acceptable to not only criticize those of Christian faith, but to ban them from public service. And I’m not sure which is worse: that Democratic leaders have sunk to such pathetic lows, or that so few seem to care.