I’m posting this on Monday morning, before we know Trump’s SCOTUS pick. If he doesn’t choose Amy Coney Barrett, then this post will be null and void in about nine hours. Still, I think Jim Geraghty makes a point worth pondering here:
The way Senate Democrats treated Barrett last autumn — in particular, Senator Dianne Feinstein’s argument that Barrett was simply too religious and too devoutly Catholic to serve on the bench, declaring, “the dogma lives loudly within you,” revealed an argument this country needs to have: whether the country accepts deeply religious people in positions of legal authority.
(It’s kind of amazing that a country that has freedom of religion, that was founded in part by Pilgrims, was a beacon for those seeking religious freedom for generations, and that has had George Washington, John Adams, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush as presidents would even need to have this debate. But it is illustrative of how different the modern Left is from previous generations.)
Yes, there are plenty of progressive and Democratic Catholics in this country. But I don’t think you have to look too hard to find progressives who believe, more or less, that devout Catholics — perhaps devout Christians of any stripe — simply can’t be trusted to rule on the law and should be prevented from serving in the judiciary whenever possible. A Catholic judge can insist, loudly and often, that they believe their role as a judge is to rule on the law and the Constitution alone, and that while their faith no doubt shapes their values and their worldview — as much as any religion, philosophy, or atheism shapes the values and worldview of any other judge — and some progressives will insist it’s all a ruse. Some are determined to see any religiously active Christians as theocrats in black robes. (As this 2007 cartoon demonstrates, the arguments are sometimes not that subtle at all; merely an affiliation with a Catholic faith makes you an agent of the Pope.)
You know that if Barrett is the nominee, someone on the Left will make an openly sexist criticism. You know her seven children will be discussed in depth. You know that someone will inevitably make an argument that amounts to, “Look, if we’re going to allow Catholics to be judges, they at least have to be lapsed Catholics.”
Why do some progressives see Catholics and/or Christians as aspiring dictators from the bench, eager to toss away any established rights, established traditions, and impose an oppressive doctrine on the entire country and stifle dissent and differing points of view?
Because that’s how some progressives see the role of the judiciary.
If Amy Coney Barrett is Trump’s choice, then what happens next will be incredibly instructive to religious conservatives about how we are going to be treated in the post-Christian order.