The Senate on Oct. 31 confirmed Amy Coney Barrett, a devout Catholic, to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals after several lawmakers took her to task for her faith.
Earlier this year, Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., argued Barrett’s beliefs could disqualify her from the federal court. She said Barrett’s faith featured too prominently in her life. “When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern,” Feinstein told Barrett during her confirmation hearing.
Christian groups used the accusation as a rallying cry and claimed Feinstein and other Democrats wanted to establish a religious litmus test for judicial nominees. In the end, Senators voted 55-43 to confirm Barrett, with three Democrats—Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Tim Kaine of Virginia—crossing party lines to support her.
Barrett’s supporters called her confirmation a major victory for religious liberty.
“Catholics were alarmed by the anti-Catholic bigotry on display from Democrats during her hearings, but her confirmation is a testament to the enduring constitutional principle that there can be no religious test for office,” said Ashley McGuire, senior fellow with The Catholic Association.
On Monday, a handful of Republican senators defended Barrett and the constitutional right to the free exercise of religion. Ahead of Tuesday’s vote, Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., urged his colleagues on the Senate floor to stop asking judicial nominees about their faith. He said Democrats cared less about Barrett’s legal scholarship and more about whether being Catholic would get in the way of being a good judge.
“It’s odd for us as Americans because this seems to be an issue that we resolved 200-plus years ago,” Lankford said. “Our constitutional protection is the free exercise of your religion. Not just that you can have a faith, but you can both have a faith and live your faith according to your own principles.”
Barrett, the mother of seven children, is a law professor at the University of Notre Dame. President Donald Trump nominated her to the federal appeals court on May 8. After Democrats questioned Barrett’s faith, the conservative Judicial Crisis Network rolled out a six-figure ad campaign to support her nomination. Pro-life groups also praised Barrett’s confirmation.