Thursday, October 08, 2020

How Extreme Is Speaking In Tongues Handmaid Amy Coney Island? She Belongs On The Bench As Much As Trump Belongs In The Oval Office


Before dawn on Wednesday, Frank Schaeffer, the world's leading expert on the sociology (and pathology) of evangelism, was up and tweeting. "It wasn't enough for Trump to nominate a pro-life Catholic to the Court," he wrote. "He had to pick a Catholic who is also a part of and leader in, an extremist protestant-style Pentecostal cult of domination and control that even most evangelicals find crazy. Amy Coney Barrett: Nutcase." Yep... a nut case who is better suited to be a minister in a fringe religious cult than a judge on any kind of a court of law, let alone the U.S. Supreme Court. It makes sense that the worst president in history would pick the worst judicial nominees in history. And Coney Island is the worst yet.

On Tuesday, the Christian Science Monitor published a deep dive into Coney Island by Henry Glass, who began by explaining the Blackstone Legal Fellowship, an arm of the ADF, the Alliance Defending Freedom, which aims to train Christian lawyers to "foster legal systems that fully protect our God-given rights." Glass noted that "The program’s student and teacher alumni now include dozens of law clerks, a U.S. senator, and at least six federal judges-- most notably Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who could soon become the youngest member of the U.S Supreme Court. The reach of the ADF and other conservative Christian legal organizations is further still. If Judge Barrett is confirmed, it would represent a culmination of decades-long efforts by the conservative Christian legal movement to move from the periphery of the legal world into the mainstream. And it is coming at the same time that fewer Americans-- just 65%-- identify themselves as Christian."
The ADF is one of several richly funded conservative Christian legal organizations (CCLOs) that constitute that movement, training lawyers, arguing-- and winning-- high-profile religious liberty cases in the courts, and increasing their influence on policy and politics. That movement is now reaching maturity, and law in the U.S. is thus poised to shift-- starting perhaps as soon as the Supreme Court term that began this week-- substantially toward favoring religious liberty over all other rights, legal experts say.

Indeed, among the movement’s stated goals is the protection of free exercise of religion as a fundamental right above all others. Such a shift in the law could prompt the diminishment of other rights, such as abortion access and same-sex marriage. CCLO attorneys, for their part, say that they just want to ensure that courts give religious beliefs the respect and protection they deserve.

“True tolerance, where people of different views and faiths can peacefully coexist-- that is ultimately what we’re advocating for,” says Matt Sharp, senior counsel for the ADF.

Judge Barrett, a former professor at Notre Dame Law School whom President Donald Trump appointed to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017, is expected to begin her confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court next week. A devout Roman Catholic, she has no direct affiliations with any CCLOs, and in her brief time on the 7th Circuit she has not developed a deep record on religious liberty or other rights, like abortion and same-sex marriage, with which it has often conflicted.

If confirmed, she would join a conservative high court that has been incrementally expanding free exercise protections along with other rights that conservative Christians see as limiting their religious freedom.

CCLOs began to form around this issue decades ago, says Jordan Sekulow, executive director of another leading Christian legal organization, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ). The establishment clause in the First Amendment, which prohibits the establishment of religion by Congress, “had basically eaten the free exercise of religion away.”

“It shouldn’t be more important than any other First Amendment right, but it was trampled on,” he adds. “And I wouldn’t say it’s come back.”

...The conservative religious movement began in the late 1970s and ’80s as a reaction to what it saw as an erosion of traditional family values and government intrusion on religion-- most notably to end racial segregation in Christian schools. But groups like Jerry Falwell Sr.’s Moral Majority still struggled to break into Washington’s elite circles.

“They’ve been outsiders to the mainstream of the conservative legal movement,” says Joshua Wilson, a political scientist at the University of Denver who studies the Christian conservative movement.

So, he adds, “they developed their own institutions and resources to make a parallel conservative Christian movement.”

Conservative legal groups like the ADF, ACLJ, the Becket Fund, the First Liberty Institute, and the Thomas More Society were all formed in the 1990s.

Most of these groups are tax-exempt 501(c)3 nonprofits, and thus not required to publicly identify donors. But they are well funded, with the ADF raising almost $61 million, the ACLJ almost $23 million, and the Becket Fund almost $7 million, according to their most recent 12-month tax-filing period. (For comparison, Lambda Legal, a national nonprofit that advocates for LGBTQ rights, raised just over $17 million in the 12 months of its most recent tax filing.)

And unlike their common opponents on the left, conservative Christian legal groups have always focused entirely on religious liberty issues.

“They have a longing for what religious liberty protections were before 1990,” says Katherine Franke, a professor at Columbia Law School and founder-director of the school’s Law, Rights and Religion Project.

“They’re trying to have the courts reread the Constitution in a way that elevates religious liberty rights over all other individual rights, as well as the public interest.”

“Positive change”

Some of the Supreme Court’s more conservative justices agree. This week, in a short opinion declining to hear a case related to same-sex marriage, Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito criticized Obergefell v. Hodges, the court’s 2015 ruling legalizing same-sex marriage, as having “ruinous consequences for religious liberty” by “choosing to privilege a novel constitutional right.”

The court’s recent grappling with religious liberty claims has focused primarily on two issues: religious institutions’ ability to access state funding, and religious individuals’ ability to exercise their beliefs around sexual norms in public life and in their private business.

For the most part, the court has narrowly favored religious liberty. Religious institutions and businesses have been granted exemptions from contraception mandates. Religious schools have been given access to state funding. A state has been rebuked for punishing a Christian cake shop owner for refusing to make a cake for a same-sex wedding.

Many of these cases have been pushed by CCLOs.

Of the 11 cases it has been lead counsel for at the Supreme Court, the Becket Fund has won nine. The ADF had more Supreme Court wins in First Amendment cases than any other litigant between 2013 and 2017, according to Empirical SCOTUS. In every religious liberty case the court hears, there are usually friend-of-the-court briefs filed by CCLOs.

The hundreds of mostly young, conservative federal judges appointed by President Trump-- not least Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh-- have certainly helped in that regard, say lawyers for conservative Christian groups.

“We’ve seen a lot of positive change on the courts,” says Michael Berry, general counsel for the First Liberty Institute. “By and large the president [has a strong] record of nominating originalist, constitutionalist judges.”

And among the more than 200 judges the Senate has confirmed are six who are alumni of conservative Christian legal organizations. Those six include Kyle Duncan, a 5th Circuit Court of Appeals judge who was general counsel for the Becket Fund, and  Lawrence VanDyke, a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals judge who was a Blackstone fellow and listed by the ADF as an “allied attorney.”

Judge Barrett’s short tenure on the 7th Circuit hasn’t brought any rulings from her on issues like abortion, marriage equality, or free exercise rights. But she is a popular nominee for social conservatives, and if confirmed would likely align with the court’s most conservative justices.

...If you ask CCLO attorneys what the “end” is, most say it’s for the free exercise of religion to have the protection and deference of a fundamental right.

In a landmark 1990 opinion, the late Justice Antonin Scalia explained why courts have chosen to not do that.

The case, Employment Division v. Smith, concerned whether it was unconstitutional to deny state unemployment benefits to two Native American men for ingesting peyote, a controlled substance, as part of their religious ceremonies.

But obligating someone to obey a law only when it coincides with their religious beliefs, wrote Justice Scalia, “permit[s] him, by virtue of his beliefs, ‘to become a law unto himself.’”

The case this term concerns a Catholic agency being banned from the city of Philadelphia’s foster program because it refuses to license same-sex couples. The court-- which by the scheduled Nov. 4 oral argument may include a newly appointed Justice Barrett-- could overturn Scalia’s opinion in Smith. As a result, it could be much easier for religious objectors to gain exemptions from laws.

“Some religious exemptions are appropriate and necessary,” says Professor Franke, the Columbia Law School scholar. But “they need to be given sparingly, or else we really undermine democracy itself.”

Special protection for religious liberty is especially needed now “to ensure that those viewed as ‘out of step’ [with social and cultural change] are not effectively expelled from society,” writes Catholic Archbishop Jerome Listecki of Milwaukee in a friend-of-the-court brief filed in the case.

“That anticipated time is already here,” he adds, quoting Justice Alito’s dissent in Obergefell that those with “out of step” views “will risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers, and schools.”

Persecution of Christians is a major concern for CCLOs and jurists like Justice Alito. In one concurrence last term, he compared the anti-Catholic animus that motivated 18th-century laws banning public funding for religious schools to the racial animus that motivated Jim Crow laws. He illustrated the point with a political cartoon from the time depicting Catholic priests as crocodiles slithering toward schoolchildren.

The court struck down that state ban, continuing a trend of slowly but steadily strengthening free exercise protections. This term that pace of change could accelerate-- especially if Judge Barrett is confirmed.

Washington Post
reporters Emma Brown, Jon Swaine and Michelle Boorstein wrote that while Trump's Coney Island Baby "has faced questions about how her Catholic faith might influence her jurisprudence, she has not spoken publicly about her involvement in People of Praise, a small Christian group founded in the 1970s and based in South Bend, Indiana." She admits she has served on the board of a network of private Christian schools affiliated with the group. "The organization, however, has declined to confirm that she is a member. In recent years, it removed from its website editions of a People of Praise magazine-- first those that included her name and photograph and then all archives of the magazine itself." Her role in the super-secretive, extremist organization, for all her efforts to hide it, is starting to seep out now that Trump is trying to push her onto the Supreme Court. In 2010 "she held the title of handmaid,' a leadership position for women in the community."

She comes from a territory where reigious bigots feel they are being persecuted if they can't use their "religious beliefs" to justify breaking the law and persecuting and oppressing minorities. Amy Coney Bigot is the very definition of someone who doesn't belong on the bench.
[W]hile in law school, Barrett lived at the South Bend home of People of Praise’s influential co-founder Kevin Ranaghan and his wife, Dorothy, who together helped establish the group’s male-dominated hierarchy and view of gender roles. The group was one of many to grow out of the charismatic Christian movement, which sought a more intense and communal religious experience by embracing such practices as shared living, faith healing and speaking in tongues.

Barrett’s ties to the group, which has conservative stances on the role of women in society and other social issues, did not come to light until after she was questioned by senators considering her nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in 2017. Senators are preparing to question her next week over her nomination to the high court.

...People of Praise was established in 1971 by Ranaghan and Paul DeCelles, then young academics at the University of Notre Dame. It was formed as a “covenant community,” in which members looking for close community promise to abide by a common agreement.

While People of Praise is open to all Christians, the vast majority are Catholic, like Barrett. At the time the group was founded, many denominations-- including the Catholic Church-- looked warily at groups that adopted different practices and created insular, separate communities. That wariness has largely subsided.

...The community was led by men, who taught members to run their families according to their interpretation of biblical views of gender roles, according to former members and group documents.

“Women were homemakers; they were there to support their husbands,” one former member said in an interview. “My dad was the head of the household and the decision-maker.”

A person who was raised in the community said she was instructed by elders not to “emasculate” her male peers by getting the better of them in conversation. “I was made aware of the difference from a young age,” the person said. “I was aware that it would have been better if I had been born a boy.”

...A 1986 community handbook obtained by The Post said each member is “personally accountable to God for his or her decisions,” but also emphasized “obedience to authority and submission to headship.”

Members are typically assigned a “head” to give them spiritual leadership and guidance on life matters such as buying a car or finding a romantic partner. Younger men and women are led by older members of the same sex, according to former members, but husbands typically take over as “heads” for their wives following marriage.

Men’s “headship” of their wives, and the male-dominated governance of the community, has been the basis of accusations from some critics of Barrett that People of Praise is built on the sexist expectation that women defer to men.

The summer 2015 issue of People of Praise’s magazine, Vine & Branches, featured an article titled “Holiness in Marriage,” which it said was based on a talk given to women in the community in the 1980s by Jeanne DeCelles, wife of co-founder Paul DeCelles.

“Make it a joy for him to head you,” Jeanne DeCelles said, according to the article. “It is important for you to verbalize your commitment to submission... Tell him what you think about things, make your input, but let him make the decisions, and support them once they are made.”

Connolly said every People of Praise member is responsible for his or her own decisions. “In the People of Praise we live by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which recognizes that men and women share a fundamental equality as bearers of God’s image and sons and daughters of God,” he said. “We value independent thinking, and teach it in our schools.”

...John Fea, a prominent historian of U.S. religion at Messiah University, said Barrett would be the first Supreme Court justice to come from a charismatic Christian background.

Fea said he believes it is fair for senators to ask Barrett how she views the blending of her small, insular community and a job judging for a nation. But he said People of Praise’s belief in distinct gender roles is similar to what is lived and preached across much of America today, in faiths as different as Catholicism, the Southern Baptist Convention and orthodox Islam and Judaism.

He said that believing men should be the spiritual leaders of the family does not mean that women cannot be professionally ambitious. “Everything about Amy Coney Barrett’s career contradicts the idea that women in People of Praise can’t have careers or be successful,” he said.

...Since its earliest days, some People of Praise members have lived in communal homes or lodged with elders before marrying. Former members said this was a way for older members to show a model of family life. Over the years, multiple members stayed at the Ranaghans’ nine-bedroom house in South Bend, often while studying at Notre Dame and after graduating, former members said.

Barrett lived with the Ranaghans when she was a Notre Dame law student, according to a person who knew her at the time.

“Let’s just say it was one of the better experiences of our life. She is just a gem. But I don’t feel comfortable talking right now,” Dorothy Ranaghan told The Guardian, which first reported the fact that Barrett lived with the Ranaghans on Tuesday.

Kevin Ranaghan, a theology scholar and teacher, was already a major figure in charismatic Catholicism, speaking internationally and hosting prayer events at Notre Dame that drew hundreds and sometimes thousands of people in the movement’s early years.

Dorothy Ranaghan, a former high school religion teacher, co-wrote two books on charismatic Christianity with her husband in the years around People of Praise’s founding.

She lamented the impact of modern feminism in a 1991 essay that said “the basic differences between men and women should be respected and given cultural expression” and promoted the traditional roles of husbands as decision-makers and wives as homemakers, even as women pursue professional ambitions.

“The wife for her part is called to submit to her husband, not as a slave, but as a companion,” Ranaghan wrote, while stressing that there was “no room here for domination, oppression or of thinking of her as less than a full and free human person.” The Post obtained a copy of the essay from a former People of Praise member.

The essay also criticized a magazine for Girl Scout leaders as presenting an “overly aggressive idealization of girls and women.”

After Barrett graduated from law school in 1997, she worked in D.C. as an intern and then as a judicial clerk, according to biographical details she has submitted to the Senate.

Meanwhile, her future husband, Jesse Barrett-- whose family also had long ties to People of Praise, according to an obituary he wrote for his grandfather-- remained in South Bend to finish law school. In a court record for a February 1998 speeding offense, Jesse Barrett’s address is listed as the Ranaghans’ home.

Jesse graduated in 1999 and married Amy later that year.

...Barrett did not mention her membership in People of Praise in response to questions from the Senate about groups with which she has been affiliated, either that year or in conjunction with her current nomination.

Numerous references to Barrett and her family that previously appeared on People of Praise’s official website have since disappeared from the site, according to a Post review of versions of the site that are hosted by the Internet Archive.

Links to at least 10 issues of Vine & Branches that included mentions of Barrett or members of her family were removed from the site during the first half of 2017, the review found. On May 8, 2017, Barrett was nominated by Trump to serve as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit.

In one of the removed issues, from May 2006, Barrett was pictured at the group’s 2006 Leaders Conference for Women in South Bend. An accompanying article described the gathering as “three days of talks, sharings and conversations, all of which revealed the explosive power of love.”

Other issues of the magazine that disappeared from the site included announcements of the births of some of Barrett’s children and articles that mentioned relatives of Barrett and her husband, Jesse.

The section of the People of Praise website that for years featured a gallery of links to full issues of the magazine dating back 14 years was removed from the site altogether soon after Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death last month, the archives show.

Connolly said the changes to the website were made “after discussions with members and nonmembers raised privacy concerns with the heightened media attention.”

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At 7:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

americans have always been christian zealots.

beginning with reagan's tax cuts which made wealthy people obscenely rich, and only made worse by every single admin and both parties since, the increasing wealth of the very few has made these kinds of things inevitable.

From the purchase of all government policy to the funding of these kinds of organizations with those disposable billions, these are all inevitable consequences of one and only one thing -- voters who are far too stupid to live, much less to elect decent leadership. Not only do voters not understand fascism and naziism and vote against either one, they also don't understand why the founders put separation of 'church' and state in their design, and refuse to vote to retain it.

When 3 out of 4 american morons self-id as christians, it's no surprise that a christian caliphate would be a goal among some of them.

after all, power over the lives of the masses is the goal. money is the means. it has worked for fascists and nazis. there is no reason it won't work for christianity. frankly, it's astonishing that it has taken this long.

At 8:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

American women are the only ones with "standing" who can affect this pending confirmation. They are the ones with the most to lose if Amy Conehead gets seated at the Court.

At 9:31 AM, Blogger Knockout Zed said...

Beautifully said! I agree.

At 7:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"(barrette) Belongs On The Bench As Much As Trump Belongs In The Oval Office"

not really a convincing argument since trump *IS* in the oval office.

this is america. as clint eastwood once said: "deserve's got nuthin to do with it"

At 7:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"(barrette) Belongs On The Bench As Much As Trump Belongs In The Oval Office"

not really a convincing argument since trump *IS* in the oval office.

this is america. as clint eastwood once said: "deserve's got nuthin to do with it"


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