With what is promising to be a bruising nomination battle around President Donald Trump’s pick of Amy Coney Barrett to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, Democrats would do well to heed the counsel of the nation’s only Catholic president, John F. Kennedy.
During Barrett’s confirmation hearing after she was nominated to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017, both Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California and Dick Durbin of Illinois made an issue of her Catholic faith.
“The dogma lives loudly within you,” Feinstein said, “and that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for years in this country.”
Flashback — Dianne Feinstein to Amy Coney Barrett about ACB’s Catholic faith: “When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you — and that’s of concern.”pic.twitter.com/aMGjVQRmcS
— JERRY DUNLEAVY (@JerryDunleavy) September 19, 2020
“I am a Catholic, Senator Durbin. I don’t — well, orthodox Catholic, we kind of — as I said, in that article, we just kind of used that as a proxy. It is not, to my knowledge, you know, a term currently in use,” Barrett answered.
“But if you’re asking whether I take my faith seriously and I’m a faithful Catholic, I am, although I would stress that my personal church affiliation or my religious belief would not bear in the discharge of my duties as a judge,” she added.
Questioning Amy Coney Barrett’s faith, here’s a second clip from her 2017 confirmation hearing, featuring IL Senator Dick Durbin.pic.twitter.com/zJkX3VixuM
— Jason Calvi (@JasonCalvi) September 21, 2020
Article VI, clause three of the Constitution provides “all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”
That means as long as a judicial nominee swears to uphold the Constitution, that person’s religious convictions are irrelevant.
Kennedy faced this question of divided loyalties when he ran in 1960 to be the first Catholic president of the United States.
The Democratic presidential nominee accepted the invitation of the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, a group of Protestant ministers, to address their concerns about how his church membership might influence the decisions he would make as president.
“I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source … and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all,” Kennedy said.
On 9/12/1960, JFK told the Greater Houston Ministerial Association: “I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish;…and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all….” (1/8) pic.twitter.com/RXr4orbEBd
— Carrie Severino (@JCNSeverino) September 24, 2020
“For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been, and may someday be again, a Jew or a Quaker or a Unitarian or a Baptist,” he continued.
“It was Virginia’s harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that helped lead to [Thomas] Jefferson’s statute of religious freedom. Today I may be the victim, but tomorrow it may be you — until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped at a time of great national peril.”
Kennedy went on to argue tolerance in matters of religion is at the heart of the American experiment in liberty.
“[T]his is the kind of America for which our forefathers died when they fled here to escape religious test oaths that denied office to members of less favored churches; when they fought for the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom,” he said.
Later in his address, Kennedy stated that he had no intention of disavowing his views or his church in order to win the election, because it really should not be the issue.
“For contrary to common newspaper usage, I am not the Catholic candidate for president,” he said.
“I am the Democratic Party’s candidate for president, who happens also to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my church on public matters, and the church does not speak for me.”
“…[C]ontrary to common newspaper usage, I am not the Catholic candidate for president. I am the Democratic Party’s candidate for president, who happens also to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my church on public matters, and the church does not speak for me.” (7/8) pic.twitter.com/JRZZcGv7HW
— Carrie Severino (@JCNSeverino) September 24, 2020
Sens. Feinstein, Durbin and any other Democrat who raises the issue of Barrett’s faith would do well to remember the wise words of JFK.
There is no room for religious bigotry in the halls of Congress.
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