Monday, September 28, 2020

Commentary on the Discussion of Amy Coney Barrett's Religious Views and Their Pertinence to Her Supreme Court Nomination

Frank Cocozzelli, "A Catholic’s Case Against Amy Coney Barrett":

The issue with the Barrett nomination for me as a Catholic is quite simple: I choose to dissent from my Church on certain issues such as choice, birth control and embryonic stem cell research. Judge Barrett, on the other hand, follows a more orthodox approach to the Church. 

That is her right to do so. It is also the Church's right to set such doctrine. But what concerns me is that she may use the power of the federal government to impose her particular Catholicism, one that is clearly not in sync with most American Catholics, on me and those that share my faith who look to the government to shield me from the excesses of Church hardliners.

A number of my co-religionists, the ones who are anti-choice have a peculiar habit of looking at the issue of abortion only through the lens of orthodox Catholicism. What of a SCOTUS justice that sees abortion as "always immoral"? That sounds like someone that is primed and ready to substitute her Church's particular teaching on the matter as the only true religious position on the matter. 

Ronald Brownstein, "How conservative Catholics became supreme on GOP's court":

Many close observers of Republican politics say that one critical reason evangelicals have been comfortable with GOP presidents picking so many Catholic justices is that they believe they share the evangelicals' desire to overturn or curtail Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision creating a nationwide legal right to abortion; Barrett, whose writings have signaled she might be open to overturning or severely retrenching Roe, could provide the decisive vote to do so.

But polls have consistently found that a solid 60% or more majority of Americans want abortion to remain legal.  In a Pew Research Center survey last year, support for legal abortion ranged from four-fifths of adults unaffiliated with any religion to nearly two-thirds of Hispanic Catholics and three-fifths of White mainline Protestants; even a slight majority of White Catholics supported legal abortion, according to detailed results provided by Pew. Among the major religious groups only a majority of evangelical Protestants (nearly four in five) thought abortion should be illegal in most circumstances.

One of the most bizarre arguments to emerge in some Catholic circles right now is that Barrett's religious views do not matter and have no import for how she interprets law.

But she herself has told us otherwise.

It is entirely possible for those vetting a Supreme Court justice to grant that people can enjoy the right to believe anything at all — that the moon is made of green cheese, for example — while also asking how their beliefs will affect their judicial decisions.

The claim that religion is off limits in vetting public servants when the flavor of religion they espouse is right-wing is odious. It implicitly communicates that only right-wing religion is true religion, and true religion should be taken at face value and never called into question in these discussions. 

None of this discussion is about who is or is not religious or whether religious beliefs should inform one's life and actions. It's about the claims of a certain type of minority religion to a right to control the majority by citing religious belief. 

An example of the kind of media treatment of these issues that is entirely unhelpful: the New York Times says that Barrett is steeped in a religious culture that informs her whole life and understanding of law.

Is this any less true of, say, Justice Sotomayor? Yet New York Times would never write about the religious underpinnings of her approach to law. Only those on the hard political or religious right have religion, apparently. Only they own religion. It's only their religion that counts as we discuss the role of religion in public life.

Centrist media with their both-sidesism normalize applications of religion that are intent on imposing one group's religious outlooks and values on everyone else by force of law. 

Centrist media normalize the claim of the religious-political right to own religion exclusively.

Both-sidesing this discussion only aids and abets those seeking to use religion in an autocratic way to deny rights to others, to dismantle civil rights laws, to restrict healthcare coverage and tear up programs to provide healthcare to those on the margins.

Is this an enterprise of which American Catholics, who already constitute a solid majority on the Supreme Court, really want to be proud? Is it one that in any way adequately communicates the core values of the Catholic tradition?

And what will be the effect of adding Amy Coney Barrett to the solid bloc of Catholic justices, vis-a-vis this enterprise? 

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