Despite the fact that the Constitution forbids a religious litmus test for judicial appointments, Senator Dianne Feinstein attacked University of Notre Dame law professor Amy Coney Barrett, a Catholic mother of seven children and a nominee for the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, by accusing, “The dogma lives loudly within you.”
Feinstein said to Barrett, “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 numbers of people have fought for for years in this country.” That seemed to be a loud hint referencing Feinstein's fanatical devotion to Roe v. Wade. During the hearings for Neil Gorsuch to be a Supreme Court justice, Feinstein said, “The Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld Roe’s court finding, making it settled law for the last 44 years,” then cited 14 cases where the high court upheld the “core holding” of Roe and 39 decisions that “reaffirmed” Roe. She added, “If these judgments when combined do not constitute super precedent, I don’t know what does."
Feinstein’s comments came after Barrett had already stated, “It is never appropriate for a judge to apply their personal convictions whether it derives from faith or personal conviction.”
Feinstein referenced a law review article that Barrett wrote in 1998 entitled “Catholic Judges in Capital Cases,” in which she said that a Catholic trial judge who is a conscientious objector to the death penalty should recuse himself if asked to order an execution against a convict. But Barrett also acknowledged that the circumstances considered in the article were narrow. She added that she had participated in death penalty cases as a law clerk at the U.S. Supreme Court.
Feinstein wasn’t alone in attacking Barrett’s religious views; Senate minority whip Dick Durbin slammed Barrett’s use of the term “orthodox Catholic,” which wasn’t surprising because Durbin himself is a Catholic who is no longer pro-life. Hawaii senator Mazie Hirono jumped on the bandwagon, too, snapping, “I think your article is very plain in your perspective about the role of religion for judges, and particularly with regard to Catholic judges.”
The left-wing Alliance for Justice (AFJ) has alleged that Barrett has advocated prioritizing religious views over established case law when the two conflict, writing, “Stunningly, Barrett has asserted that judges should not follow the law or the Constitution when it conflicts with their personal religious beliefs.” Adrian Vermule, a Harvard Law School professor, refuted those claims here.
Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska defended Barrett, telling her, “I think some of the questioning that you have been subjected to today seems to miss some of these fundamental constitutional protections we all have.”