Supreme Court candidate Amy Coney Barrett served as a “briefcase,” a term then used to refer to the high-ranking women leaders of the People of Praise religious community, an ancient repertoire of performances by the band members.
Barrett has so far refused to discuss his membership in the Christian organization, which opposes abortion and, according to former members, maintains that men are divinely ordained as the “head” of the family and of faith, while it is the duty of women to submit to them.
Portions of two pages of the People of Praise directory for the South Bend, Indiana branch were shared with The Associated Press by a former community member on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter and because that this person still has family members in People of Praise. A second former member, Gene Stowe, who left the South Bend branch on good terms several years ago, has confirmed the authenticity of the directory pages. He said he couldn’t say precisely what year the directory was from, but that it must have been 2013 or earlier because one of those listed had moved to another state by then.
All of the senior leaders of People of Praise are men, but in each of the group’s 22 regional branches, a select group of women is responsible for mentoring and providing spiritual guidance to other female members. Until recently, these leaders were called “towels”, a reference to the mother of Jesus, Mary, who according to the Bible was called “the handmaid of the Lord”. The organization recently changed the terminology to “woman leader” because it had new negative connotations after Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel “The Handmaid’s Story” was turned into a popular TV show.
The leaders lead weekly groups of men or women of about half a dozen people where they pray and talk together, and where the leaders offer advice and guidance. They will also organize themselves to help others in the community, for example by providing meals when someone becomes ill. According to the organization’s rules, no female leader can provide pastoral supervision to a man, former members said.
The White House defended Barrett on Wednesday.
“These allegations are offensive and motivated by anti-religious bigotry. Judge Barrett is an independent lawyer with an exceptional record, ”White House spokesman Judd Deere said.
The People of Praise belief system is rooted in the Catholic Pentecostal movement, which emphasizes a personal relationship with Jesus and may include the baptism of the Holy Spirit. As practiced by people of worship, this may include praying in tongues to receive divine prophecies, heal the sick, and cast out evil spirits, according to documents and former members.
Founded in 1971, the non-profit organization has 22 branches across North America. It is not a church but a community of faith that includes people of many Christian denominations, although most of its approximately 1,800 adult members are Roman Catholics.
The existence of the directory listing Barrett’s name as a servant was first reported Tuesday night by the Washington Post. The AP reported last week that a 2006 issue of the group’s in-house magazine, Vine & Branches, included a photograph showing Barrett attended a nationwide conference for only women leaders of People of Praise.
The group had removed copies of this magazine and other back issues mentioning Barrett and his family from its website in 2017, when his name first appeared on President Trump’s shortlist for a potential court appointment. supreme.
Back issues of the magazine, tax returns and other documents showed Barrett’s father was the chief executive of the People of Praise New Orleans branch and was on the group’s all-male board of governors in 2017. Her mother also served in the branch as a maid.
Other documents uncovered this week also showed that Barrett and her husband, attorney Jesse M. Barrett, had lived in the home of two of the group’s co-founders when they were young law students at Notre Dame in the 1990s.
Barrett did not disclose his decades-long affiliation with People of Praise on his voluminous Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaires filed last month and three years ago, when the Notre Dame law professor was appointed by Trump to a sits on the 7th United States Court of Appeals in Chicago.
Barrett has submitted to the Senate her list of recusing the 7th Circuit of people and businesses with whom she has a conflict, including her husband, her law firm and Notre Dame University. But the list includes two other South Bend companies: Healy Group Inc., a financial services company owned by four People of Praise members, and Great Day LLC, which shares an address and phone number with that company.
Barrett, 48, did not respond to a phone message asking for comment. The White House press office did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on why the mother-of-seven chose not to disclose her People of Praise membership in the Senate.
Barrett also did not reveal that she signed a 2006 newspaper advertisement sponsored by an anti-abortion group stating that it opposed “abortion on demand” and defended “the right to life from fertilization to the end of natural life.”
On Tuesday, the 10 Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee released a letter asking the Justice Department to explain the omissions and confirm whether other items were omitted from Barrett’s Senate questionnaires. If so, the ministry should immediately provide the documents for committee review, senators said.
Barrett’s confirmation hearings are set to begin Monday as Republicans rush to approve his rise to the Supreme Court ahead of the Nov. 3 election.