Thursday, September 24, 2020

It is a Legitimate Question Mr. Perkins

Hate Group Leader Tony Perkins of Family Research Council is doing a “Poor Us!” over controversies surrounding potential Supreme Court nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett. Perkins frames those questions as: “The Left's anti-Christian Dogma.”

Nothing pleases Perkins more than the opportunity to complain about anti-Christian bias. Perkins doesn't have many tools at his disposal. In simplest terms, Perkins is not terribly gifted. His choice of levers in most situations is self-victimization.
A Reuters headline from yesterday reading "As U.S. Supreme Court nomination looms, a religious community draws fresh interest" pointed to Barrett's association with "People of Praise," a Christian parachurch organization, and suggested the group was somehow "authoritarian" and discussed whether it should be considered a cult -- even comparing it to the dystopian "Handmaid's Tale."
First of all, from 1970 to 2017, women with leadership roles in the organization were called “handmaids.” It's not a comparison that Reuters offered. The quote referencing a cult is this:
Coral Anika Theill, a former People of Praise member, has been strongly critical of the group, calling it a “cult” and saying in an interview women are expected to be completely obedient to men and independent thinkers are “humiliated, interrogated, shamed and shunned.”

Theill, who last year wrote a blog post entitled “I lived the Handmaid’s Tale,” said she planned to call every U.S. senator to oppose Barrett should she become Trump’s nominee.
There is also an issue of duplicity. While People of Praise claims to have liberal and conservative members, it is, in point of fact, an ultraconservative organization. If, in fact, Barrett is a member of a cult then that is an important matter and worthy of exploration.

Suppose she were a Scientologist? After Perkins recovered from his stroke I think that he would have a few questions in mind.

Perkins blathers on:
The recent attacks against Barrett mirror ones she faced during her 2017 confirmation hearing where Democrat senators asked pointed questions about her Catholic faith, suggesting Barrett's religious beliefs disqualified her from serving on the federal bench. In a now infamous line of questioning, Senator Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.), who serves as the Ranking Member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, stated, "The dogma lives loudly within you, and that's of concern." Responding to Feinstein at the time, Barrett explained, "If you're asking whether I take my Catholic faith seriously, I do, though I would stress that my personal church affiliation or my religious belief would not bear on the discharge of my duties as a judge."
Really? As a professor of law at Notre Dame, Barrett wrote an article titled: Catholic Judges in Capital Cases. Therein she explains the conflict. The alternative is recusal:
we believe that Catholic judges (if they are faithful to the teaching of their church) are morally precluded from enforcing the death penalty. This means that they can neither themselves sentence criminals to death nor enforce jury recommendations of death. Whether they may affirm lower court orders of either kind is a question we have the most difficulty in resolving. There are parts of capital cases in which we think orthodox Catholic judges may participate-these include trial on the issue of guilt and collateral review of capital convictions. The moral impossibility of enforcing capital punishment in the first two or three cases (sentencing, enforcing jury recommendations, affirming) is a sufficient reason for recusal under federal law. But mere identification of a judge as Catholic is not a sufficient reason. Indeed, it is constitutionally insufficient.
Barrett is saying that, when jurisprudence and religion are in conflict religion prevails and the judge is obligated to recuse themselves. We, therefore, not only have to rely on Barrett's judgment regarding the law. We have to rely on whether or not she believes that a conflict exists.

That, in turn, leads us to consider how much of a person's judgmental beliefs are formed from religious doctrine. Secondarily, Can the individual always distinguish between religious beliefs and secular beliefs as a jurist?

I presuppose that Barrett is a moral person cognizant of her legal responsibilities. However, she is going to be biased in many matters. She may honestly believe that Church dogma has no bearing on her rulings. Can Barrett distinguish dogmatic opinions from legal scholarships?

We already have an ultraconservative Catholic justice in Clarence Thomas.

Thomas recused himself from matters dealing with Wachovia Bank. However, to the best of my knowledge, he has never recused himself from a case involving social issues and every ruling of his in those cases has been in accord with the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Chief Justice Roberts is also a Catholic and a conservative. Yet he joined the majority in Bostock v. Clayton County (LGBT employment discrimination). Alito, Kavanaugh and Thomas were in dissent. Kavanaugh, by the way, wrote a separate dissent that demonstrated some class and empathy.

Blowhard Bill Donohue called Senator Feinstein's questioning of Barrett the application of a religious test. No it was not. The issue is not about what religious beliefs Barrett might hold but whether she can be depended upon to dispense justice apart from those religious beliefs.

Tony Perkins is in favor of a religious test for federal judges. Perkins wants jurists who will overturn Roe v. Wade. Opponents of reproductive choice are almost always those who harbor a religious objection to abortion. Anti-choice activism and anti-choice rhetoric usually comes from religious groups and religious conservatives.

Could we count on Amy Coney Barrett to recuse herself in all matters concerning abortion or LGBTQ rights? I have my “sincerely held” doubts. In 2013 Barrett wrote that seven cases were protected by super-precedents. Among those were Brown v. Board of Education. This paper was the source of questions and testimony at Barrett's confirmation hearing for the Seventh Circuit.

At the same time Barrett did not think that Roe v. Wade was similarly protected by stare decisis. Nor was Lawrence v. Texas in spite of her claim that a case required broad public and political support to be considered a super-precedent. Who wants to criminalize homosexuality again (other than a few infamous hate groups)? 

In fact no case involving LGBTQ citizens made it to Barrett's list.

The above appears to be a direct discrediting of her statements. True, it was in an academic paper and not as a judge but it was still supposed to be a secular legal opinion. 

However, in her prior confirmation hearing, Barrett testified that the opinion of the Church regarding the definition of marriage was legally irrelevant and that she considered the court's pro-LGBT cases “binding precedent I will follow if confirmed.” Were she not true to her word we have no recourse.

There are legitimate concerns and legitimate questions. Justices of the Supreme Court have lifetime appointments. The Court is the final arbiter of the Constitution.

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