Soon enough, the Senate will consider the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to a seat on the Supreme Court. We at Here and Sphere oppose it.
Our reasons for opposing Judge Barrett are purely ideological. We have no dispute with her intellect or her legal acumen. It is clear from what even opponents have written that she excels at legal analysis and that she writes very readable opinions, which too many Judges do not. None of this, however, changes our mind about opposing her nomination.
We also have no dispute with her faith. A person’s religion, by itself, should never affect their fitness for an office to which they have been directed.
Unfortunately, however, Barrett appears, from her own written words, to believe that the law should subordinate to faith. That view contradicts one of our Constitution’s basic premise, that religion cannot be a test for office or a measure of the public law of State and nation.
There are many in America who now believe otherwise, that the Constitution and its guarantees to all are inferior to the precepts of a faith and that people are Constitutionally justified in denying basic civil rights to others if said rights contravene their “sincerely held’ faith. We reject this view.
You may fully observe your faith, if you have one, but the Constitution’s guarantees make it clear that your faith cannot impose its opinions on anyone else. People, of course, are free to subject themselves — and the rights sworn to them in the Constitution — to the strictures of a faith. In no circumstances, however, can anyone be allowed to restrict anyone’s enjoyment of the Constitution’s guarantees without said person’s freely given consent.
The case that comes first to mind is a woman’s right to determine the outcome of her pregnancy. Some religious assert that a woman does not have that right because, so they say, the fetus in a pregnancy is a life in being. That is a religious opinion, however. The law does not say so. The law gives full priority to the pregnant woman. It is her body, and one has the right, so says our law, to control her body — all of it. In other words, where religion is certain, the law is skeptical.
The Constitution rests upon that level of skepticism. It says, in effect, “certain beliefs may be true, or may not be. To protect the rights of all, we will err on the side of doubt rather than of certainty.”
The Framers lived barely three generations from wars of religion in which people degraded, tortured, burned, and killed one another for this or that belief or lack thereof. And to what end ? What did the society the Framers inherited gain from having arisen out of wars about beliefs ? Only a conviction that futility was the consequence, that every such abuse only proved that abuses of that kind should never again occur.
People who believe as Judge Barrett does, about abortion, and about marriage equality. gender identity, and the like — decrying them all — may be right, but they may also not be right, and our law, schooled by the wars of religion that preceded us, chooses to preference the “may not be,” the doubt, the skepticism about certainties that can only exist by tyranny of one kind or another; and we are not a tyranny.
Our preference for the “may not be” is kin to the basic assumptions of our law that one is innocent until proven guilty by clear and convincing evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. it is kin to evidence, period. It is kin to our common wisdom that charges and accusations are insufficient to determine an outcome no matter how fervently they are believed by those who bring them. Judge Barrett, with her preconceptions — her believed certainties — stands outside these basics of the law. Does she accept these basics ? If so, how can she not apply them to matters where her faith is sure but the law refuses to be ? Is she a lawyer or a preacher ?
I am profoundly unclear on which she is.
Soon enough Judge Barrett will have to answer Senators’ questions, some of which are sure to address the sorts of matters I have discussed. we will then learn whether Judge Barrett is a lawyer or a minister of religion. If she cannot convince us that she is a lawyer and not a preacher, her nomination must fail.
— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere