First, a preliminary point. I am pleased that the Democrats chose not to make an issue of the membership of Amy Coney Barrett in the Charismatic Christian organization, People of Praise. This would have been constitutionally improper, politically unwise, and offensive to me personally, which I will make my last point of discussion on this issue.
It would be a clear violation of the No Religious Test provision of the Constitution to make an issue of Barrett’s religious activity. This rule, specified in Article VI, states the following:
“no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
Unless the religious practices of a nominee for federal office involve activities that are in violation of the law or constitute a threat to public health, safety, or morals, this provision prohibits them for being a basis for denial of Senate approval. None of the practices of the People of Praise constitute such disqualifying activities.
Moreover, any questioning of Barrett by the Democrats regarding her Catholic faith could result in a massive backlash against them among Catholic voters. This reaction would come at a time when the Democrats are becoming dominant favorites to capture both the White House and the Senate. Given the high likelihood that Barrett will be confirmed, why take a foolish risk that is unlikely to derail Senate approval.
As stated above, I also have a personal reason for taking offense at any questioning of Barrett regarding People of Praise.
I grew up in a Conservative Jewish home and first began to embrace Orthodox Judaism in 1988. Although I finally would follow the doctrines of Modern Orthodox Judaism, my move from Conservative to Orthodox Judaism was largely influenced by my experience with the Lubavitch Hassidic (Chabad) movement.
Just as People of Praise has been described as a Charismatic Christian organization, the Lubavitch movement can best be described as a Hassidic Charismatic Sect, highly influenced by the charisma of their late, most righteous leader of goodness and greatness, the Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson. The people of Lubavitch are most righteous, warm-hearted people, who extend outreach to Jews all over the world.
I spent many a Sunday at the World Lubavitch Headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, waiting in line to meet the Grand Rebbe Schneerson. Some of the most intensely spiritual moments of my life involved my interaction with Lubavitch Hassidic Jews.
And although I never became a Lubavitch Hassid, there is no doubt that my involvement with the Lubavitch movement enhanced my spirituality, and that Amy Coney Barrett’s involvement with People of Praise likewise enhanced hers.
Amy Coney Barrett is a good and decent person and a woman with a remarkably incisive legal mind, whether or not one agrees with her. While I oppose her confirmation for reasons I gave in a previous column, (https://www.insidernj.com/senate-must-refuse-consider-trump-supreme-court-nominee/), I have no doubt she will be confirmed by the Senate.
The Republican Party, however, is virtually certain to pay a high price for that confirmation at the polls this November. The Democrats have succeeded effectively in persuading the nation that Amy Coney Barrett is predisposed to vote for 1) a reversal of the Roe v. Wade decision, which established a woman’s right to an abortion during the first six months of pregnancy; and 2) total repeal of ObamaCare, otherwise known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Both Roe v. Wade and the ACA are highly popular measures with the American public, particularly among women voters. The American public now believes that one or both of these measures is seriously jeopardized by the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.
There were three events at the hearings that resulted in the firming of this perception:
- It was revealed that in 2006, Barrett signed an ad calling for an end to the “barbaric legacy” of Roe v. Wade.
- In her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Barrett opined that Roe v. Wade was not a “super-precedent”, i.e. one that ordinarily could never be reversed.
- In the exchange with Kamala Harris described below, Barrett claimed she did “not recall” President Trump’s statement committing to nominate judges who will strike down the Affordable Care Act. This was a response that damaged Barrett’s credibility overall.
The public perception that the Barrett appointment may spell the end of either Roe v. Wade or the ACA is likely to have a particularly damaging effect on the GOP effort to keep control of the Senate.
In order for the Democrats to wrest control from the Republicans, they have to register a net gain of three Senate seats if Biden wins the White House (as is almost universally expected), leaving Vice President Kamala Harris with the authority to break ties.
Prior to the Barrett hearings, most pundits were predicting the Democrats to register a net gain of three Senate seats, with their being likely to lose a seat in Alabama, yet being solidly favored to oust GOP incumbents in Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and North Carolina. Now, the Democrats will be favored to also capture seats in Iowa and Montana, and be at least a toss-up to win control of 1) two seats currently held by the GOP in Georgia, and 2) the seats held by the Republicans in South Carolina, Alaska, Kansas, and Mississippi.
Yes, Trump and the GOP will succeed in winning Senate confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett. The cost of that win is control of the US Senate itself. This is indeed a pyrrhic victory.
Alan Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission.