Asking Amy Coney Barrett in Senate SCOTUS confirmation hearings about her public religious advocacy and writings on religion-related hot-button issues is not “anti-Catholic bias.” If she’s confirmed, 7 of 9 Justices will be Catholic and 6 of 9 will have spent their formative years in Catholic schools. That’s as far from “anti” as you can get and not the least bit representative of the United States' religious diversity. (I think I speak for Ole and Lena in saying if 7 of 9 Justices were Lutheran—uffda!—free lutefisk dinners coast to coast.)
Truth is, most Americans aren’t worried about the number of Catholics or any other religion on SCOTUS; however, they are uneasy over rightwing Christian views of “religious liberty” in rulings that increasingly permeate the laws of the land. Alarm bells went off in 2014 (Burwell vs Hobby Lobby) when SCOTUS imbued a corporation owned by a wealthy family with religious liberty rights. Human workers in that corporation were allowed no such rights. Now, in 2020, Americans are rightfully worried that national majority views on health care, health insurance, reproductive justice, and LGBTQ rights will be undermined in the name of “religious liberty.”
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As progressive Catholic writer Frank Cocozzelli said in a piece for “The Daily Kos,” what in legal opinion purports to be “religious liberty” too often in practicality affirms “religious supremacy.” Yes, the American Constitutional ideal is to treat all religious beliefs and non-religious beliefs equally and neutrally. Unfortunately, religious liberty granted to one often steps on the religious liberty of another: equality gives way to supremacy.
Cocozzelli uses the example of a woman whose Jewish faith requires her to abort a life-threatening pregnancy. Society accepts that if she ends up in a Catholic hospital her “religious liberty” to do what her religion requires won’t be honored; she must go elsewhere. But turn that around. Would a non-Jewish woman with a life-threatening pregnancy taken to a Jewish hospital be forced to have an abortion? Of course not.
Note that Barrett has said abortion “always is immoral.” What looms with her nomination is that religious tolerance and religious diversity give way to religious winners and losers.
This summer SCOTUS upheld the employer’s religious right to deny contraception insurance coverage for employees. The Court also ruled that private religious schools can’t be excluded from tax-funded scholarship programs and that federal employment discrimination laws don’t have bearing for private religious school teachers.
If Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed, such chipping away at the wall of separation between church and state will become all-out assault by rightwing religious causes. After all, she publicly supported a group decreeing life begins at fertilization (no more IVF); she’s openly scorned the ACA (20 million people lose insurance). And the leader of the “Alliance Defending Freedom”—identified as an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center—attended her nominating event at the White House.
Should anybody be surprised if “religious liberty” and “religious supremacy” become synonymous?
This letter does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.