Is Sen. Dianne Feinstein an anti-Catholic bigot? Did she violate the spirit if not the letter of the Constitution’s ban on a “religious test” for public office when she worried this week that a Catholic nominee for a federal appeals court might be unduly influenced by her religious beliefs because, as she told the nominee, “the dogma lives loudly within you.”
Feinstein’s comments at a hearing Wednesday of the Senate Judiciary Committee were directed to Notre Dame law professor Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump’s nominee to the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals (and, as some noted, a mother of seven). The response on Twitter was immediate and righteously indignant.
I don’t think Feinstein is a bigot or a descendant of the 19th Century Know-Nothings who muttered about “rum, Romanism and rebellion.” But she went too far in raising doubts about whether Barrett would allow her religious views to affect her rulings as a judge (particularly about abortion rights, Feinstein’s priority when it comes to judicial nominations)...Barrett didn’t deserve such treatment, despite a claim by a liberal interest group, the Alliance for Justice, that “Barrett has said that judges should be free to put their personal views ahead of their judicial oath to faithfully follow the law.”
Nowhere in its screed against Barrett did the group substantiate this extraordinary accusation. It cited a 1998 article Barrett co-wrote as a law student that argued that a Catholic trial judge with religious objections to capital punishment should recuse herself from deciding whether to impose a death sentence. That, of course, is the opposite of suggesting that a judge should issue a ruling based on her religion.