People of Praise: Barrett’s choice draws attention to small religious group

Editor’s note: Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on September 27, 2020. It was updated with additional People of Praise reporting ahead of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings.


President Donald Trump’s nomination of Federal Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court has drawn new attention to his association with a Christian group called People of Praise.

Barrett has not spoken publicly about his relationship with the religious community, which was founded in 1971 and includes “Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Methodists, Pentecostals, Presbyterians and other denominational and non-denominational Christians. denominational,” according to its website.

Interest in Barrett and her background has been heightened by the condensed timeline Republicans have planned for her potential confirmation, including her Senate confirmation hearings starting Monday. Her replacement for the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a liberal icon and proponent of abortion rights, has only heightened tensions surrounding the nomination process.

Barrett’s religious beliefs were raised during 2017 confirmation hearings at his current seat on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein wondered if the candidate could separate her faith from her legal opinions. The problem then, as it is now, is how her faith would inform her approach, particularly on legal challenges to abortion rights.

Barrett said at the time that his personal opinions would have “no bearing on the performance of my duties as a judge” – on abortion or any other matter in court. She did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee say they want to avoid discussing whether Barrett’s fervent Catholic faith will impact his views, instead focusing on issues they hope will resonate with voters, such as the next month’s Supreme Court hearing on the Affordable Care Act.

“His religion is immaterial, irrelevant,” Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program on Sunday.

Barrett’s association with People of Praise was not mentioned during the 2017 hearing and only became widely known, and the subject of speculation, when The New York Times published a report on Barrett and the group in September, after answering questions from senators but before her. Confirmation in the Senate.

Barrett often appeared in a “Vine and Branches”, People of Praise magazine. These mentions included birth and adoption announcements for some of her children and other passing mentions and images. A number of online versions of issues that include it appear to have been removed from the website – although it is unclear why this action was taken. The magazine’s website no longer has issues for May 2006, July 2008, December 2008, March 2010, Winter 2011, Summer 2012, and Fall 2012, all of which contained references to Barrett, her husband, or her children.

Credentials were scrubbed between January 2017 and June 2017. Barrett was nominated for the appeals court spot in May 2017.

In the questionnaire submitted to the Judiciary Committee when she was nominated by Trump to her current judgeship, Barrett revealed that she served on the Trinity School board of trustees from 2015 to 2017. People of Praise founded the school in South Bend, Indiana, in 1981.

He opened two more – one in Eagan, Minnesota, in 1987 and the other in Falls Church, Virginia, in 1998. Although the students who attend the schools are not necessarily members of People of Praise, the communications director of the band, Sean Connolly, said membership was a prerequisite. to sit on the school board.

People of Praise also deleted a blog post from September 2015 announcing that Barrett had been elected to the Trinity School board. It is not known when or why it was removed.

Connolly declined to comment on why the post was deleted. He would not discuss Barrett’s affiliation with People of Praise, citing official policy.

“Like most religious communities, People of Praise leaves it up to its members to decide whether to publicly disclose their involvement in our community. And like most religious communities, we don’t publish a membership list,” Connolly told CNN.

People of Praise has 1,700 members in 22 cities across North America and the Caribbean, including South Bend, Indiana, where Barrett lives. Members of the group make a “covenant” or “lifetime pledge of love and service to other members of the community,” according to its website, which distinguishes the pledge from an “oath” or ” wish”.

A 2010 yearbook lists “Barrett” as a “maidservant,” a title used at the time for women in leadership positions, The Washington Post reported.

He recently dropped his use of the term “maidservants”, which described a woman acting as a spiritual leader in the group and was taken from a biblical description of Mary.

“We chose to have male leadership at the highest level in our community based on our desire to be a family of families,” Connolly said. “We follow the New Testament teaching that the husband is the head of the family, and we have modeled our community on this New Testament approach to family life.”

Connolly added that women “take on a variety of leadership roles within People of Praise, including serving as leaders of many of our schools and leading ministries within our community.”

“Christian leadership always involves service and sacrifice, and in no way involves superiority or dominance between spouses,” he said.

The Post also reported that while attending law school, Barrett lived in the South Bend home of People of Praise co-founder Kevin Ranaghan.

Barrett charted a meteoric rise in academic and legal circles. Her colleagues at Notre Dame, where she was hired nearly two decades ago and still teaches, wrote an enthusiastic letter of support when she was first appointed to the federal bench.

“As an academic community, we have a wide range of political opinions, as well as commitments to different approaches to forensic methodology and the legal profession,” they said. “We are, however, united in our judgment of Amy. She is a brilliant and scholarly teacher, and a warm and generous colleague.

She was confirmed at the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017 with 55 votes in the Senate. Among the Democrats to cross party lines: Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton’s running mate in 2016.