A member of President-Elect Joe Biden’s transition team argued earlier this year that Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s faith should be probed by Democrats as a potential means to prove that she was unfit to serve on the Supreme Court.
Barbara McQuade, who was tapped for Biden’s legal review team earlier this month, penned an opinion article for MSNBC in October where she argued that Democrats should attempt to expose Barrett’s personal faith as inconsistent with the job’s requirement to uphold the rule of law.
The argument is based on a paper Barrett wrote more than two decades ago with one of her law school professors, where it is argued that Catholic judges are “morally precluded” from enforcing the death penalty and should therefore recuse themselves from related cases.
McQuade extrapolated from those comments that there may be a variety of other cases, like abortion, that Barrett would be unfit to rule on as well.
“To expose the risk of Barrett’s refusal to follow precedent, Senate Democrats should focus not on when life begins, but on when it ends,” McQuade wrote in her piece. “Just as [Justice Ruth Bader] Ginsburg exposed discrimination by focusing on the rights of men, Senate Democrats can expose Barrett’s lack of fidelity to the rule of law by exposing her views on the death penalty.”
Barrett, however, has since cleared up how she would reconcile her personal faith with her legal rulings.
When questioned about the topic during her 2017 confirmation hearing, Barrett noted that every idea expressed in the article is not necessarily reflective of how she thinks about the same issues more than 20 years later, as pointed out by The National Review.
During the same hearing, she went further to say that it is “never appropriate” for a judge to impose their personal convictions on the law.
“If you’re asking whether I take my faith seriously and I’m a faithful Catholic — I am, although I would stress that my personal church affiliation or my religious belief would not bear in the discharge of my duties as a judge,” Barrett said before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2017.
She also said she could not think of any cases that she would feel the need to recuse herself “on the grounds of conscience.”
Democrats were opposed to her confirmation because she has given a sharper conservative edge to the high court, with the possibility that issues like health care and gun rights could be affected.
Barrett was confirmed last month by the Senate in a 52-48 party-line vote as Republicans overpowered Democrats to install President Trump’s nominee days before the election, securing a likely conservative court majority for years to come.
Trump’s choice to fill the vacancy of the late liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg potentially opens a new era of rulings on abortion, the Affordable Care Act and even his own election. Democrats were unable to stop the outcome, Trump’s third justice on the court, as Republicans race to reshape the judiciary.
Barrett is 48, and her lifetime appointment as the 115th justice will solidify the court’s rightward tilt.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.