BreakPoint: The Dogma of Sens. Feinstein and Franken

No Place for Faith in Public Life

On May 8, 2017, President Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett to a seat on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

By any reasonable measure, Barrett is beyond qualified. After graduating with highest honors from Notre Dame Law School, she clerked for Justice Antonin Scalia at the Supreme Court. And a few years later, she returned to Notre Dame. There, she “teaches and researches in the areas of federal courts, constitutional law, and statutory interpretation.”

She is exactly the kind of person you want serving on the Court of Appeals, if we lived in more reasonable times.

As her Notre Dame affiliation suggests, Barrett is a Catholic, which wouldn’t be an issue if she were the kind of Catholic whose faith is so private, as the old joke goes, that she wouldn’t impose it on herself.

But she’s the kind of Catholic who lives as if her faith is actually true.

At her confirmation hearings, Senator Diane Feinstein, channeling Darth Vader in Star Wars,  told Barrett that “When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you.” An example of what Feinstein considers “loudly living dogma” is Barrett’s address to the Law School’s 2006 graduating class.

Barrett said that “Your legal career is but a means to an end, and . . . that end is building the kingdom of God. . . . [I]f you can keep in mind that your fundamental purpose in life is not to be a lawyer, but to know, love, and serve God, you truly will be a different kind of lawyer.”

Feinstein and other Democratic senators also pointed to a 1998 article on the death penalty, which the Catholic Church opposes in all but a few, highly improbable, instances. Barrett wrote that “Judges cannot—nor should they try to—align our legal system with the Church’s moral teaching whenever the two diverge. They should, however, conform their own behavior to the Church’s standard. Perhaps their good example will have some effect.”

What Barrett had in mind was recusal, which is done to insure impartiality. But to hear Feinstein and others discuss it, you would have thought that Barrett was talking about an auto-da-fé, the burning of heretics.

But by far the most ridiculous moment came when senator Al Franken compared Barrett’s speaking before the Alliance Defending Freedom to giving a speech to Pol Pot, the genocidal Cambodian dictator. I am not making this up.

Coming on the heels of Bernie Sanders’ mistreatment of Russell Vought, a Wheaton College grad, over his belief that Jesus is the only way to the Father, it’s clear that some Democrats seem intent on imposing a de facto religious test for government office, notwithstanding the Constitution’s explicit prohibition of such a test.

Of course, they deny they’re doing any such thing. Instead, in the case of Barrett, they’re recycling one of the oldest prejudices in American life: “The notion that Catholics are so beholden to Rome as to be incapable of rendering independent judgment in public office.”

The modern version, as the late Richard John Neuhaus used to say, goes “the only good Catholic is a bad Catholic,” someone who doesn’t live as if his faith were actually true.

As Russell Vought learned, the same is also true for Evangelicals. For some people, even the gentlest, most winsome faith is simply beyond the pale.

 

The Dogma of Sens. Feinstein and Franken: No Place for Faith in Public Life

Christians, just as Judge Barrett has demonstrated, should not be swayed by the cultural climate. As Peter wrote to the early church, we’re to keep our behavior excellent so that even those who slander us will, on account of our good deeds, glorify God. It’s a timely reminder for all believers, whatever our spheres of influence.

 

Resources

The Naked Public Square: Religion and Democracy in America
  • Richard John Neuhaus | Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company | May 1996
The Dogma of Diane Feinstein
  • Sohrab Ahmari | New York Times | September 11, 2017
Did Durbin and Feinstein Impose a Religious Test for Office?
  • Alexandra DeSanctis | National Review | September 8, 2017

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  • David New

    Good response from John Jenkins, the President of Notre Dame and Amy Barrett’s boss, in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal: https://www.wsj.com/articles/it-is-chilling-to-hear-1505074699

    • Steve

      Yes, Fr. Jenkins nailed it. The only religion that is allowed per these senators is bowing to the god of secularist humanism. We have seen where that goes in the murderous 20th century.

      • Linda Freeman

        Agreed. Secular humanism is as much a religion as any the world over.

  • Darlene

    Great article! And it’s so true.

  • J Mitchell

    Just to be clear, Franken’s reference to Pol Pot was not equating ADF to Pol Pot as your article suggests. He used it as an example of expecting someone to know who they are hired to give speeches to. Barrett’s defense to speaking to the ADF was that she doesn’t make it a practice to research the groups that she speaks to. It was a weak defense and Franken used Pol Pot as an extreme example. I expect a more honest representation from Metaxas.
    Instead of complaining about how unfair Democrats are towards conservative Christians, perhaps we should explore the reasons for this renewed hostility. Given the strong support for Trump by conservative Christians, Democrats have every right to be suspicious of us. We have only ourselves to blame by aligning ourselves with such an immoral person.

    • Linda Freeman

      Immoral in the past I would say. President Trump, as we ALL, have sinned and fallen short of God’s design for us. Since becoming President I am very pleased with his comparatively humble demeanor, kindness, and care for the people of the USA.