Catholic League president Bill Donohue comments on the upcoming hearings on President Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court:
It now looks like President Trump will nominate Amy Coney Barrett to fill the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court. He met with her twice this week. He also admitted that he did not meet with Barbara Lagoa, widely believed to be Barrett’s strongest competitor.
Barrett, who was subjected to a round of anti-Catholic commentary in 2017 when she was being considered for the appellate job she now holds, is not likely to endure a second round of bigoted attacks. That’s because those who made those remarks paid a heavy price for doing so.
I am proud that the Catholic League played a major role in putting these unjust critics of Barrett on the defensive. More than any other Catholic organization, we led the fight against Barrett’s foes.
To date we have issued 10 new releases on this subject, garnering 32 media hits—we have been cited on TV, radio, newspaper, and internet stories. Most important, we mobilized Catholics to contact Senator Charles Grassley, who chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee when Barrett was being considered for the appellate position. They did so in droves.
On September 17, 2017, I wrote to Senator Dick Durbin and Senator Dianne Feinstein objecting to their line of questioning. In both instances, Catholic-baiting questions and comments were made. What made this news release special was providing our subscribers with Grassley’s email address: we urged them to request that the senator speak to the issue of anti-Catholicism.
In my statement to the media, I said, “Senator Durbin and Senator Feinstein came perilously close to applying a religious test to circuit court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. Such a test is unconstitutional.” On October 31, 2017, Grassley took to the floor commenting on Barrett’s critics, noting that “Others have spoken on the issue of a ‘religious test’ but I’ll remind my colleagues the Constitution” bars such a measure. He added that “we received many letters on this topic.”
I was accurately quoted in Politico today saying the Catholic League staff has been scanning internet sites looking for instances of anti-Catholic bigotry, but so far “red flags” have been scarce. This explains why we have not issued a statement condemning such discourse. “There’s not enough there right now,” I said. “People are being more careful this time around.”
Of course, not everyone has been shy about going after Barrett’s Catholicism. Villanova University professor Massimo Faggioli, a Catholic dissident, says the Democrats should not hold back in questioning her religious beliefs. Wandy Felicita Ortiz, a New York writer, attacked Barrett’s religious convictions by saying the nominee “hates your uterus.” Newsweek had to apologize for claiming that Barrett inspired The Handmaid’s Tale (a story about religious fanatics).
Many commentators, not all of whom are sympathetic to Barrett, have warned against playing the anti-Catholic card. Some have made principled arguments while others have observed that it would backfire.
S.E. Cupp advises Democrats that a repeat of the bigoted attacks on Barrett will only get Trump reelected. Bonnie Kristian, writing for Yahoo News, says that an attack on Barrett’s faith is the “wrong way” to go. Democratic Senator Joe Manchin flatly said, “It’s awful to bring in religion. It truly is.” Professor Jonathan Turley, who says he is “fervently secular” in his views, opined that Democrats should leave Barrett’s religious beliefs alone.
The Jewish Forward argued that questioning her religious convictions “should be off limits.” Father Tom Reese, who is not a Trump supporter, said, “The Democrats are making a big mistake if they talk about her religion.” Brandeis University professor Eileen McNamara said it best: “Let’s keep the focus during this nomination and confirmation fight—whenever it comes—on the Constitution, not on the Baltimore Catechism.”
If Amy Coney Barrett is indeed President Trump’s pick, the ugly proceedings she endured three years ago are not likely to be repeated. But we can never be complacent. We therefore request that everyone ask Senator Lindsey Graham, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to be on the alert for Catholic-baiting questions and remarks.
Contact Graham’s chief of staff, Richard Perry: Richard_Perry@lgraham.senate.gov