A Politico op-ed published Thursday attempts to justify the questioning the religious beliefs of potential Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. Unfortunately, the piece is riddled with factual inaccuracies about her faith and religion in general.
Barrett is one of President Donald Trump’s top picks to fill Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat, and the publicity is casting a spotlight on her religious beliefs. Barrett is a member of the Praise of People, a Christian covenant founded half a century ago. While some wonder why Barrett’s personal religious beliefs matter when it comes to her judicial qualifications, others have made it clear that nothing is off the table, and that her religion ought to be inspected under a microscope.
Massimo Faggioli, the author of the Politico op-ed, is a professor of religious studies at Villanova University. He writes that, “the Senate Judiciary Committee should be prepared to ask to examine any covenant—a solemn contract binding before God—that she signed in the course of becoming a full member of People of Praise,” adding that, “doing so will protect, not erode, America’s foundational value of religious liberty.”
— Massimo Faggioli (@MassimoFaggioli) September 24, 2020
There are two major inaccuracies the religion professor’s op-ed, both of which Politico has yet to correct. First, Faggioli argues that any “vow of obedience” taken by Barrett must be called into question.
“Some people might understandably balk at having a member of a religious order or Opus Dei sit on the Supreme Court. But at least in these communities, the vow of obedience that such a person has made would be visible, formal and accountable,” he writes.
This sentence implies that Opus Dei members, followers of the Catholic Church, take vows, when in fact, they do not. The Opus Dei website clarifies that members “do not profess vows because they are not consecrated persons as in the case of members of a religious order.”
The second falsehood perpetuated by Faggioli is the notion that members of the People of Praise, a charismatic Christian community, take part in secretive vows and hierarchies. Faggioli writes, “anthropologists, sociologists and theologians have documented not only the spiritual vitality and witness of such communities, but also their closed and secretive nature.”
He went on to claim, “Even more troubling are the numerous first-person accounts of the ways in which some leaders and fellow members eroded and even destroyed their members’ spiritual and intellectual freedom.
Had Faggioli bothered to research the covenant before writing he would have found the very clear answer to his accusations. The People of Praise publicly outline their “Covenant Commitment” on their website.
The covenant explains, “our commitment is to love one another as brothers and sisters in Christ, the way any group of Christians would.” The page goes on to outline commitments to Christian unity, weekly meetings, and serving the lord. Not as secretive as Faggioli suggests.
Faggioli concludes the piece by arguing that when picking a justice, the president and Senate should examine “oaths and commitments they may have made that could affect or supersede an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Hopefully the Senate will take more time to at least understand the basic tenets of faith before they inevitably smear Christian nominees for their beliefs.