The introduction of Conservative Judge Amy Connie Barrett to take a seat on the Supreme Court, the highest judicial body in the United States, has caused a storm in the US media.
After one of the court’s eight seats became vacant on the death of Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, last week, US President Donald Trump rushed to nominate Barrett, 48, for the chair that judges would occupy for life.
Ginsburg is seen as a feminist and liberal icon, so Trump’s choice of a judge from a conservative background has raised the fear of liberal currents over their gains in the Supreme Court, especially those related to laws on abortion and same-sex marriage.
The positions of the Republican and Democratic candidates on issues such as abortion will be a major focus in determining voting trends in the upcoming presidential elections next month.
As it became known, Trump enjoys the support of conservative Christian groups among the renewed evangelicals, who are interested in enforcing their agenda in the judiciary, especially with regard to abortion and same-sex marriage.
Observers of Trump’s performance point out that his administration has taken several decisions to satisfy their agenda, including moving the US embassy to Jerusalem.
By choosing a conservative judge to sit in the Ginsburg seat, the US president is flirting with the ambitions of voters who want to amend laws related to birth control, marriage and family.
But Amy Cooney Barrett is a Catholic, not an Evangelist, so how closely does she relate to religious extremist beliefs? And why is a Catholic judge raising so much controversy when the Democratic Party candidate, Joe Biden, who is opposed to Trump, is also Catholic, and has not raised conservative slogans in his campaign?
American newspapers indicate that the controversy is not about Barrett’s religion, but about its membership of a secular group or fraternity, known as “People of Praise,” which includes about 1,700 members of its membership, from various Christian sects, but most of them are Catholics.
At a time when Barrett did not deny or confirm her affiliation with the group, media reports suggested that she was part of it, because her Democratic parents belonged to it, and because she held a position on the board of trustees of the Trinity School of the People of Praise, in South Bend, northern Indiana.
This is not the first time that the judge’s relationship with that group raises questions, when Trump nominated her to the Chicago-based Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017, and during the candidates’ hearings, questions about the possibility of her religious beliefs affecting her decisions and rulings.
At the time, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein leveled her stinging criticism, saying, “The creed lives blatantly in you, which is disturbing.” At the time, Feinstein was criticized for a statement deemed discriminatory, and he releases a judgment on Judge Barrett for her religious beliefs, disregarding her competence.
Today, as her name has returned forcefully to the spotlight, the question is renewed about her ability to separate her personal convictions from her judicial rulings. The reason, according to her critics, is not her Catholicism, but her unclear relationship with the “People of Praise” group, which raises suspicion among Catholics themselves.
An “occult” stream of talent
The debate about the ability of Catholics to separate their beliefs from their public duties is not new in the United States. When John F. Kennedy won the elections in 1961, a question was raised about the impact of his relationship with the Vatican on his decisions, and the same applies today to Biden.
In the case of Barrett, the matter goes beyond the usual religious sensitivities so to speak, especially with the ambiguity surrounding the “People of Praise” group, after testimonies by former members of it, who spoke of repressive practices, and the interference of group leaders in detail in the decisions and personal choices of its members.
According to the American Religious News Service, the “People of Praise” is one of the groups belonging to a religious stream of talent among Catholics in the United States, influenced by the Pentecostal Evangelical traditions.
By my talents, he means a belief whose followers believe in the advent of the Holy Spirit upon them, and their ability to predict, perform miracles, and speak ancient languages they do not know.
This is the same trend as a number of renewed evangelical pastors who support Trump.
The story of the nation
This trend is not common among Catholics, and it raises many criticisms among some theologians and commentators, and it arose in the late 1960s, as a reaction from conservatives to the counterculture that was manifested by the behavior of the Hippies in the United States.
It is likely that the Canadian writer, Margaret Atwood, was inspired by these new Catholic sects, her famous novel “The Tale of the Nation” (1985), and she referred to this in an interview with “The New York Times” in 1986. That day when Atwood said: “There is a charismatic Catholic sect.” You call women slaves. “
The novel was turned years ago into a popular series on the Hulu broadcast, and imagines a dystopian world where pollution causes sterility. In a closed, oppressive society, fertile women are forced to work as slaveholders for the families of leaders, with the aim of preserving the reproduction of the human race.
‘A man is a woman’s head’
According to what is known about the “People of Praise” group, its leadership system is restricted to men.
In the simplest life choices, from marriage to buying an apartment or a car, individuals rely on the opinion of a leader or spiritual guide.
Women refer to leaders, who until 2017 were called slaves, then the group changed its name after the spread of the aforementioned series, calling them “Women Leaders.”
The group is known for its large families, as Judge Barrett is the mother of eight children, two of whom are foster.
In addition, weekly meetings are held in which the gender segregation prevails, while the group members apply the idea that “the man is the head of the woman and the head of the family,” according to what was mentioned in one of the letters of Saint Paul.
Thus the organization focuses on the family, traditional gender roles, and a life of prayer, piety and service.
Those who are separated from the group say that women occupy a lower position in the culture of “people of praise”, and spiritual leaders control the lives of individuals in an arbitrary manner. Those who leave the group are completely banished from society.
According to former members, the leaders’ interference amounts to accountability for women who ask questions or refuse to obey their husbands, in group sessions.
On the other hand, spokesmen for the group deny the extremist practices attributed to them, saying that the experiences of some former individuals do not accurately express the truth.
In sporadic press interviews, they say that the aim of the group is to support its members spiritually, socially and financially. Even unmarried people live in communal homes while they marry. Each family is also required to donate 5 percent of their income to the group.
In South Bend, where Judge Barrett resides with her family, the “People of Praise” group wields wide influence, despite the secrecy surrounding its activities. Its influence has expanded thanks to the “Trinity” private schools that produce elite students nationwide.
American newspapers indicated that the school curriculum is based on educating students on the commitment of virginity before marriage, on being patient in determining their sexual orientation, and that marriage is an institution that links a man and a woman.
The city itself is home to the University of Notre Dame where Barrett studied law and worked as a lecturing professor for many years. According to historians of the Catholic talents since the 1960s, the aforementioned university was a stronghold.
However, the most prominent point that appeals to Barrett’s critics is evident in the system of affiliation under the banner of the “People of Praise” group, as the matter requires a religious preparation that extends for six years, after which the member concludes with the proclamation of a “pledge” or a “vow,” which he pledges for life.
With Barrett and her family’s relationship with the community lacking transparency, and with the ambiguity surrounding the goals and practices of the “People of Praise”, many fear that Barrett’s hard-line doctrine appears to have a negative impact on her integrity as a judge.