Richard Nelson

Richard Nelson

What are the qualities of a good Supreme Court justice? The question is relevant since Judge Amy Coney Barrett's nomination to the nation's highest court. 

Impeccable integrity, temperament, experience and fidelity to the Constitution are traits to look for in any judge, and Coney Barrett ably demonstrates each characteristic. A member of the 7th Circuit Federal Court who's authored more than 100 opinions, former clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia and recognized by Notre Dame Law School as an outstanding and beloved teacher, she is surpassed by few in legal credentials. She received the American Bar Association's top rating as "Well Qualified" in 2017.

Yet, those opposed to another Trump nominee have imposed a new litmus test on abortion and religious beliefs. Some media outlets, including Reuters and Newsweek, are ginning up Coney Barrett's involvement in a charismatic Catholic group called People of Praise, claiming that groups like it somehow inspired "The Handmaid's Tale" — the dystopian novel where women are subjected to breeding status at the hands of powerful men. Margaret Atwood, author of the novel, denies any such connection.

Amy Coney Barrett may have a large family (she's a devoted wife and mother of seven), but by no means is she anyone's handmaid. If anything, the devout Catholic, legal scholar and judge demonstrates that the political left has not cornered the market on equality for women in the workplace. 

She is in fact an advocate to a greater degree for women's dignity because she is pro-life and would protect young girls in the womb deemed inconvenient or the wrong sex. Consider that some 23 million girls are missing globally (mostly in China and India) because they've been the casualty of sex-selective abortions. 

Alex Blair, an attorney and one of Barrett's former students, told the South Bend Tribune, “It’s been disorienting to see the smartest person I know reduced to how she might vote on (abortion), when she is so much more than that.” 

Since when has the position on life been disqualified from serving on the bench? Practically, Barrett's legal philosophy is deeply feminist and affords equality to females at the earliest stages of life.

Amy Coney Barrett is being attacked for her deep faith, but it's not the first time. During the confirmation process to the 7th District Court in 2017, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., quipped "… when you read your speeches, the conclusion is the dogma lives loudly within you. And that's of concern."

Article 6 Section 3 prohibits a religious test to hold any federal office, yet Feinstein put her faith under a microscope and made into an issue.

That wasn't the case when Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg spoke about her Jewish faith and its commitment to justice: "The virtues of a good judge are a product of the judge’s character and commitments, including one’s faith tradition."

What's good for the goose should be good for the gander. 

The secular left often conflates a political candidate's personal religious belief with the imposition of religious doctrine. Coney Barrett testified under oath in 2017 that "she would never impose (her) own personal convictions upon the law." And there's no reason to believe anything would change if confirmed to the Supreme Court. 

As far as faith goes, if one has deep religious beliefs, it will surely influence the course of one's life. But the same is true for the one with deep secular beliefs.

A secular litmus test on faith puts secularists in a position of superiority and marginalizes candidates with religious convictions. But America wasn't birthed out of a sterile secularism that fenced one's religion from public life. 

The Founding Fathers prevented a national church, but they never intended anyone to be disqualified for public office because of their religious beliefs. The U.S. Senate should extend this courtesy to Judge Coney Barrett.

Richard Nelson is the executive director of the Commonwealth Policy Center. He can be emailed at richard@commonwealthpolicy.org

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