“Do you consider yourself an orthodox Catholic?”
“I am a Catholic, Senator Durbin.”
This surreal question and answer occurred between Senate Minority Whip Richard Durbin and Amy Coney Barrett, the Notre Dame Law School professor whose nomination hearing for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit occurred yesterday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. It was one of several times during the hearing that Democratic senators questioned the nominee’s faith with thinly veiled skepticism.
That is a logical, straightforward observation to draw from the process of judicial recusal long established by federal law, but Democratic senators followed with suggestions that a nominee’s religion speaks to her qualifications to serve. Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono told the nominee, “Ms. Barrett, I think your article is very plain in your perspective about the role of religion for judges, and particularly with regard to Catholic judges, and of course not all judges are Catholic. So we could go down the path of what you think would be the role of religion,” Hirono continued before changing the subject, “for judges who are not Catholic.”
Speaking of rights that were secured by great sacrifice, did any of these senators give thought to the Constitution’s protection of the free exercise of religion or its prohibition of requiring any religious test as a qualification for public office? On the other side of the aisle, Senator Ben Sasse told Barrett during the hearing, “I think some of the questioning that you’ve been subjected to today seems to miss some of these fundamental constitutional protections that we all have.”