Some Senate Republicans, including Hawley, on Monday decried what they saw as unseemly attacks on Barrett’s religious beliefs by Democrats and members of the media.
Barrett’s membership in the ecumenical group People of Praise has been the subject of recent news articles, including in The Guardian which called the group “secretive” and in the Washington Post, which noted Barrett's position of “handmaid” in People of Praise, a biblical term.
Democrats on Monday focused their statements on health care, but have made recent suggestions that while Barrett’s religion is “irrelevant” to her confirmation, her faith-based views on issues such as abortion deserve scrutiny.
“Her faith is irrelevant,” Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) said of Barrett at a Sept. 30 press conference. “What the real issue her is whether her closely-held views can be separated from her ability to make objective, fair decisions with a lifetime appointment.”
The group Americans United for Separation of Church and State tweeted on Monday during the hearing that the Constitution forbids religious tests for nominees, but that it “ALSO prohibits lawmaking based on a narrow minority’s religious beliefs, right?”
Republicans on Monday pointed to previous hostile questioning of Barrett by some committee senators in 2017, when Sen. Feinstein told Barrett her religious views were “of concern” when Barrett was being considered for the Seventh Circuit Appeals Court.
Feinstein told her that “when you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And that’s of concern.” At that hearing, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) cited Barrett’s writings to ask her what she thought an “orthodox Catholic” looked like.
“This committee isn’t in the business of deciding whether the dogma lives too loudly within someone,” Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) said Monday.
Hawley also brought up Harris’ questioning of several judicial nominees on their membership in the Catholic fraternal men’s organization Knights of Columbus, in 2018. Other judicial nominees, he said, faced questions from Democrats on their views on sin and the afterlife, as well as other matters.
Harris’ questions about the Knights of Columbus were examples of “the very terminology” of historic anti-Catholic bigotry making a resurgence, he said.
“That is an attempt to bring back the days of the religious test.”
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Sixty-five million Americans are Catholics, Hawley noted, asking if they are “to be told that they cannot serve in public office” unless committee members “sign off” on their beliefs.
Sasse said that the committee cannot decide “which religious beliefs are good and which religious beliefs are bad and which religious beliefs are weird.”
Identifying as a Christian, he said that “we got a whole bunch more really weird beliefs” such as forgiveness of sins, the virgin birth of Christ, Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, and eternal life.
“There are a whole bunch of really, really crazy ideas that are a lot weirder than some Catholic moms giving each other advice about parenting,” he said in a shot at media reports on Barrett’s membership in People of Praise.